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Richard Kornberg, Associated Press
The cast of the acclaimed musical "Rent" at New York's Nederlander Theater in 1996 production.

It's the end of an era.

As I write this piece Friday morning, there are only 3,447 minutes to the closing of the seventh longest-running show in Broadway history — "Rent."

How do you measure a year? Or more than a decade for that matter?

With the Pulitzer Prize? Tony Awards? Obie Awards? Drama Desk Awards? Or with countless youth who were exposed to live theater for the first time?

After 12 years, it's time to say goodbye to Mark, Roger, Mimi, Tom, Angel, Joanne and Maureen.

The history of "Rent's" inception and the untimely death of its creator, Jonathan Larson, is pretty well known these days. But just as a refresher: After seven long and difficult years, truly living as a starving artist (at one time in a loft that had a bathtub in the kitchen), Larson was set to open "Rent" at New York Theatre Workshop.

The night of the final dress rehearsal, as the preview audience cheered, Larson sat down for an interview with The New York Times (his only interview), and an hour later he was dead. For the week or so prior, Larson felt sick and suffered chest pains, but doctors misdiagnosed it as food poisoning, stress or the flu. He died of an aortic aneurysm at the age of 35.

His death, on the eve of the premiere of his masterwork, left a few cynics saying that was the reason "Rent" was such a success. But perhaps the death of Larson served "Rent" — a musical about life and death and what you do with each moment — as a grand exclamation point for the message of the musical.

"Rent" went on to win every major award that year, broke ground with topics and subject matter, is credited with introducing the "lottery ticket concept" — which saves a certain amount of seats available for $20 (fairly common at most Broadway shows now), and introduced Generation X to the world of live theater.

If you're reading this Sunday morning, odds are good that you're not in New York City for the farewell performance, which happens tonight.

But thanks to Sony Pictures' "Hot Ticket," we'll get the next best thing. They're sending camera crews to capture the emotional goodbye performance. This special limited-time engagement will not only show the performance from the best seats in the Nederlander Theatre, but it will also take us on stage and backstage as the cast sings and dances its way through Larson's music one last time.

This limited engagement is brief: Sept. 24, 25, 27 and 28. Here are the participating theaters:

Carmike 12

Carmike Ritz 15

Century 16

Century 16 Union Heights

Cinemark 24

Megaplex 12, Gateway.

You can visit www.thehotticket.net/rent for more information. Thank you, Sony!

Here are a few other Broadway happenings:

TV for theater geeks: I'm a bit excited about this. Fox Network has announced a new hourlong comedy, "Glee," about a "30-something Spanish teacher at an Ohio high school who has the task of taking over the school's glee club, which has become a haven for outcasts." The show is supposed to have four musical numbers per episode and will star Matthew Morrison ("Hairspray," "Light in the Piazza" and the new "South Pacific") and Lea Michelle ("Spring Awakening").

Sing out, Louise!: The 2008 Broadway Cast recording of "Gypsy," with Patti LuPone, is leading the Billboard Cast Album Chart and is also No. 58 on the Top 200 in Billboard magazine.

Little Jimmy: The youngest of the Osmond clan, Jimmy, will make his West End debut in May, joining the London cast of "Grease" as Teen Angel. He'll be with the show from Jan. 19 to March 14.