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20th Anniversary ‘Rent’ Fantasy Casting With Modern Pop Stars

Theo Wargo / Frazer Harrison / Dimitrios Kambouris, Getty Images

About 20 years ago, Jonathan Larson introduced his progressive rock-opera Rent to New York City. Inspired by Giacomo Puccini’s classic La Bohème, Larson’s East Village-placed reworking tells the tale of a group of eight friends and their struggles — romantic, financial, and personal — during the AIDS epidemic of the late ’80s and early ’90s.

The musical opened off-Broadway on January 25, 1996 before making its way to Broadway just a few months later in the spring. The story was intimate and moving, as well as inclusive in its portrayal of racial diversity and LGBT issues, featuring relatable, complex characters and memorable music. The play became an instant hit, and would go on to win both a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize.

Now, roughly two decades since making its Broadway debut, Larson’s musical is returning to New York this month for a celebratory 20th anniversary run beginning September 23 at Long Island City’s Secret Theatre. And since Rent is all about the music (for many fans, anyway), we decided to do an ultimate fantasy casting using some of our favorite pop stars.

Find out below who we think would make a perfectly dorky Mark, a fabulous Angel, a brooding Roger and more:

Ian Gavan, Getty Images

Mark – Ed Sheeran
Unlucky-in-love redhead Mark (he is the former boyfriend of Maureen, who cheated on him) is the narrator of Rent. He’s a filmmaker who, during the story, is documenting the lives of his friends over the span of a year. He’s a little dorky, very observant and provides comedic relief. English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, with his red hair, scruffy appeal, and friendly sense of humor, would be just right as the character.

Nick Jonas iHeartRadio Summer Pool Party
Isaac Brekken, Getty Images

Roger – Nick Jonas
Roger is Mark’s BFF and apartment roomie, a handsome, moody, struggling rock musician and former junkie. Sexy Nick Jonas — with his good looks and real-life pop-rock origin — would be perfect in the role. (Plus, the boy looks damn good in a leather jacket.)

Christopher Polk, Getty Images

Mimi – Rihanna
Wild-child Mimi is a young exotic dancer and struggling heroin addict who lives in the apartment below Roger and Mark. She’s sexy, a little rough around the edges, and possesses both a sense of feminine empowerment and emotional fragility that Rihanna could perfectly capture.

John Legend
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Tom – John Legend
MIT professor Tom is mature and good-natured. He’s also a romantic, making him a great fit for singer-songwriter and self-professed feminist John Legend who is known for his suave, sensitive music and gentlemanly ways.

Drake-Coachella-Set-Times
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Angel – Drake
Kind, warm, and all about the love, HIV-infected transgender woman Angel, love interest of Tom, is at the heart of Rent in more ways than one. We can’t think of a better person to play Angel than sensitive Canadian R&B crooner and rapper Drake. He’d give an emotional performance, for sure.

Jessie J
Mike Coppola, Getty Images

Maureen – Jessie J
Always the center of attention, Maureen is a performance artist and activist. She’s bold, she’s loud, and she’s a powerful character with a deep sense of self-assurance and sexual empowerment— even if she can’t exactly stay faithful to her lovers. With her big voice and likeness to Broadway’s original Maureen (Idina Menzel), British pop songstress Jessie J would be a great fit.

Janelle Monae In Concert - New York, New York
Noam Galai, Getty Images

Joanne – Janelle Monae
Joanne is a practical Ivy League-educated lawyer who is dating wild Maureen. She’s sensible, righteous and strong, and her somewhat androgynous style plays with the juxtaposition of feminine and masculine that somewhat defines her character. Progressive artist and feminist Janelle Monae would be absolutely perfect in the empowered role.

102.7 KIIS FM's 2015 Wango Tango - Show
Kevin Winter, Getty Images For 102.7 KIIS FM’s Wango Tango

Benny – Ne-Yo
Benny is the complex antagonist of the story, a newly successful former roommate and friend of many of the other characters who now owns their building and is torn between forcing them to pay up on the rent they owe. He’s handsome, suave and powerful, traits that pop-R&B artist and actor Ne-Yo would naturally possess in the role.

What do you think of our fantasy casting? Did we miss or mis-cast anyone? Tell us in the comments!

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