Joanathan Larson is best known for his ground-breaking rock-opera Rent, but before that success, he worked on a few other projects with more of a retrofuturist twist.
In summer 1989, producer Michael Barrett invited Larson to participate in a project for American Music Theatre Festival called Sitting on the Edge of the Future. It was a collection of music by various theater composers based on the “city of the future” featured at the 1939 World’s Fair.
Larson wrote a humorous song called “Hosing the Furniture” about a woman living cleaning her all-plastic house while contemplating her own insecurities with herself and her relationship with her husband.
Though the rest of the show (and the show itself) seems to be mostly forgotten, Larson’s contribution was not and he received the Stephen Sondheim Award for “Hosing the Furniture”.
No official recordings of the song are publicly available, but you can get a taste of this song from University of Michigan Musical Theatre student Dani Spieler:
At the time, Larson was working on a new musical called Superbia, inspired by the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. The futuristic rock show never saw a full production.
The story of his struggles writing and workshopping Superbia are recounted in his rock monologue tick, tick… BOOM!, which included one of the original Superbia songs “Come to Your Senses”.
Thanks to the Larson estate and the Library of Congress, a demo of another song from the show was released as a part of the CD Jonathan Sings Larson called “LCD Readout”.
The full collection of Larson’s papers, including scores and demo recordings of “Hosing the Furniture” and Superbia are available at the Library of Congress.
2019 Update – After a successful series of concerts at Feinstein’s/54 Below, an official studio recording was made of some of Larson’s unreleased music, including “Hosing the Furniture,” “One of These Days” (from Superbia), and “SOS” (from his 1984 musical).
2021 Update – The release of Netflix’s movie adaptation of tick, tick…BOOM has created a renewed interest in the lost Jonathan Larson musical Superbia. While a few new songs from Superbia were featured in the movie, they were not made available on the official movie soundtrack. Fans are clammoring to hear more of this music and we can only hope the success of the TTB movie will lead to a concept album or production of Superbia.
Until then, if you’re interested in learning more about the rare works and unreleased songs in Jonathan Larson’s papers, check out the book Boho Days: The Wider Works of Jonathan Larson by J. Collis. After studying the entirety of Larson’s papers and interviewing friends and family, Collis has put together the ultimate guide to Larson’s work. It includes the history and development of each project and summaries of the different versions of Superbia. It is well worth the read for any Jonathan Larson fan.