Here’s How Much Jonathan Larson’s Estate Is Worth Since ‘Rent’ & What Happened After ‘Tick, Tick, Boom’

Jonathan Larson
Photo: AP Images. Netflix.

Though he never saw Rent debut, Jonathan Larson’s net worth and estate skyrocketed after the musical’s $250 million success, which afforded his family the chance to help others survive the condition that killed the Tick, Tick…Boom! writer and director.

Jonathan David Larson was born on February 4, 1960, in White Plains, New York. He attended White Plains High School, where he performed the lead roles in many of his school’s theatre productions. After he graduated from high school, Larson attended Adelphi University in Garden City, New York, with a four-year scholarship as a theatre major.He graduated with a Bachelor of Fine arts degree and went on participate in a summer theatre program at The Barn Theatre in Augusta, Michigan, as a piano player, where he earned his Equity card for the Actors’ Equity Association. After the program, Jonathan moved to New York City, where he lived on the fifth floor of a building on the corner of Greenwich Street and Spring Street in lower Manhattan with various roommates.

For nine and a half years, Larson worked at the Moondance Diner in SoHo on weekends, while he spent his weekdays composing and writing musicals. Larson died at the age of 35 on January 25, 1996, the same previews were set to start on Rent, the Broadway musical that would earn him three Tonys and Pulitzer Prize. Larson was the subject of the 2021 movie, Tick, Tick…Boom, biographical musical drama based on the stage musical of the same name by Larson, who was played by Andrew Garfield. The movie—which was directed by Lin Manuel Miranda—includes a mix of songs from the musical Tick, Tick…Boom!, as well as biographical scenes based on Larson’s real life at the time.

Tick, Tick…Boom! by Jonathan Larson

"Tick, Tick Boom" by Jonathan Larson

Image: Courtesy of Applause.

How did Jonathan Larson die?

How did Jonathan Larson die? Larson died on morning of January 25, 1996. He was 35. Larson was found dead by his roommate, Brian Carmody, 10 days before his 36th birthday on the kitchen floor of his home in Manhattan. Carmody found Larson’s body on the kitchen floor when he arrived home at 3 a.m. after a night of bar-hopping, according to The New York Times. Before he collapsed, Larson put a kettle of water on the stove to boil. When Carmody found him, the flame was still on, but all the water had evaporated from the teakettle, with its enamel peeling from the heat.

Larson died the same day his musical, Rent, which he wrote the music, lyrics and book to, was scheduled to start previews at the New York Theater Workshop. The preview of Rent was cancelled and the musical’s company sang the score of the show for Larson’s family and friends instead. The night before his death, Larson attended a final dress rehearsal for Rent before he returned home, where he died the morning after.

An autopsy found that Larson died of an aortic aneurysm—a tear inside the aorta, the main artery that carries blood from the heart to all other organs. It’s believed that the tear—which was more than a foot long from and extended from his heart to his abdomen—was caused by an undiagnosed Marfan’s syndrome, a congenital condition that affects connective tissue and weakens the walls of the aorta, according to a 1996 report by The New York Times.

What is Jonathan Larson’s net worth?

Tick Tick Boom

Image: Macall Polay/NETFLIX.

What was Jonathan Larson’s net worth after his death and what is his estate worth now? Larson was survived by his parents, Allan and Nanette Larson, and his sister, Julie Larson McCollum. Before the debut of Rent—which was inspired by Larson’s friends who were artists struggling with poverty and homelessness—Larson lived much like his characters. He worked as a waiter on weekends at the Moondance Diner in SoHo for nine and a half years. Larson would spend his weekdays composing and writing musicals. As for where he lived, Larson shared a $1,400-a-month apartment (with a bathtub in the kitchen) with two roommates, according to The New York Times. For transportation, he rode around New York City on a beat-up bicycle.

Larson died the same day Rent was set to start previews. The musical officially opened at the New York Theater Workshop in February 1996, a month after Larson’s death. The show started with a six-week run at the 150-seat East Village theater, which was extended through March 31 and sold out. A bidding war then started for the right to produce the $240,000 show on Broadway, which led to the opening of Rent on Broadway at the Nederlander Theater on April 29, 1996, with a budget of $2 million.

Rent, which went on to win Larson three Tonys and Pulitzer Prize, grossed around half a million dollars a week in its first year on Broadway. A second production opened in Boston in November 1996, with advanced ticket sales of $5 million. The musical also went on to open productions in La Jolla, California; Toronto, London and other cities across the world. Within its first year on Broadway, the musical’s soundtrack went gold with sales of more than 500,000 copies. A coffee table book was also published, and in 2005, the musical was made into a movie by Sony Pictures. The film, which Idina Menzel, Rosario Dawson, Taye Diggs and other stars, went on to gross $31.6 million worldwide. 

David Taback, the lawyer that represented Larson’s family and estate, estimated to The Washington Post in 1996 that Rent would earn $250 million in its lifetime, with a third going toward Larson’s estate—which includes his parents and sister. The money helped Larson’s family file medical malpractice lawsuits against two hospitals that Larson visited the week of his death.

According to a 1996 report by The New York Times, Larson was rushed to the emergency room twice for severe chest pains the week he died. The first hospital, Cabrini Medical Center, told him he had food poisoning. The second hospital, St. Vincent’s Hospital and Medical Center, said he had a virus. Both hospitals sent him home. After Larson’s death, a four-month investigation by the New York State Health Department found that the doctors failed to diagnose him with Marfan’s syndrome, a potentially treatable condition, that killed him. Larson’s family subsequently filed medical malpractice lawsuits against both Cabrini and St. Vincent’s. Both hospitals were also fined by the Health Department for their poor quality of care. Cabrini was fined $10,000, while St. Vincent’s was fined $6,000. ”For almost 11 months we’ve been afraid our suspicions were correct, and that with proper care, Jonathan would not have died,” Larson’s father, Allan, said at the time. ”Now it’s official.”

The lawyers that represented Larson’s family and estate also told The New York times at the time that they weren’t surprised by the department’s findings. ”We’ve been saying all along that they made the wrong diagnosis based on insufficient evidence,” Larson’s attorney said. ”It’s gratifying to see the public scolding and the fine, which is very, very rare.”

Dr. Barbara DeBuono, the New York State Health Commissioner at the time, told The New York Times that Larson’s dissecting aortic aneurysm, which caused torn vessel lining in his aorta, would have been difficult to diagnose, but she still faulted the doctors for not being thorough enough in their efforts to find a reason for his chest pain. ”The bottom line is that he had severe chest pain and that was not pursued or diagnosed in either facility,” she said at the time. “Had there been a higher index of suspicion and had the correct diagnosis been made, there is a possibility that effective treatment could have been rendered.” DeBuono also claimed that Larson didn’t have any of the common symptoms for a virus of food poisoning, which include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, as more evidence of the doctors’ incorrect diagnoses.

According to The New York Times, Larson was first taken by an ambulance to Cabrini on January 21, 1996, with complaints of severe chest pain, dizziness and shortness of breath that started as he was eating dinner. Cast members in Rent recall him almost collapsing backstage. Two days later, he visited St. Vincent’s with the same symptoms. At both hospitals, Larson was physical exams, cardiograms and chest X-rays. However, officials claimed that none of these procedures are reliable to diagnose an aneurysm, which is often detected by a CAT scan or a specialized heart sonogram.

The Health Department also claimed that the exams, cardiograms and X-rays showed at least some irregular results that should have been of concern for doctors to order more tests. The department found that Larson’s cardiogram at St. Vincent’s suggested a lack of blood flow to the heart and that his blood pressure displayed a wide gap between high and low pressure measurements, which hinted that his heart’s main valve was leaking. The department found that the report wasn’t read until after Larson was discharged. 

The department also believe that treatments and tests at Cabrini for food poisoning may have worsened Larson’s condition, as doctors at the hospital gave him a powerful painkiller that could have masked important symptoms that may have led to an accurate diagnosis. The hospital also Dr. DeBuono also suggested that treatment and tests at Cabrini relating to the possibility of food poisoning may have actually clouded Mr. Larson’s diagnosis or worsened his condition. Doctors there gave him a powerful painkiller that may have masked important symptoms, she said. They also inserted a tube through his nose and pumped his stomach. ”It may have had an adverse impact,” DeBuono said at the time.

In statements, both Cabrini and St. Vincent’s claimed that to diagnose Larson with an aortic aneurysm “would have been extremely difficult” given that aneurysms generally produce severe, constant chest pains that patient describe as “searing” or “ripping.” Lawyers for Larson claimed that his condition fit that description and he told doctors that the pain was worse each time he took a deep breath.

As for what happened to the lawsuit, the Journal of Urgent Care Medicine reported that the suit was settled for an undisclosed amount, with part of the money donated to fund educational efforts by the National Marfan Foundation, which provides research for Marfan’s syndrome, that condition believed to have led to Larson’s death.

Tick, Tick…Boom! is available to stream on Netflix. The book of Tick, Tick…Boom by Jonathan Larson is available on Amazon

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