I myself am a musician. I teach music for a living, but that was a second career, after time spent on other pursuits. During that time, I was poor and almost homeless for some time. With a stable life, a house, a car, and the ability to pay all my bills, I look back now and while I appreciate what I have, I feel tied down, and sometimes that breaks my artistic spirit -- being tied down, that is. When I watched Rent, I saw the sorrow -- some of which I have experienced myself. But I also saw beauty. Collins got canned, but picked up another job. Angel made money how she was able. Benny, though financially better off, still had this studio in the back of his mind. There is a certain beauty to reality. There is a certain beauty to hardship.
When things are happy all the time, happiness loses its appeal. We could not appreciate life without death. We could not appreciate love without hatred or at least indifference. Yin and yang. Balance. These things all comprise the human spirit, and it is these things that are beautiful in Rent and La Boheme. I tell my own story only to accentuate that even as I am happy now, I still look back with longing when I see this musical and am reminded of my more difficult times. There was a simplicity and its accompanying beauty to that life -- living for today (no day but today!).
So in that sense, Rent, while dark, is not as dark as the surface would appear. --Rob, the music teacher and respectable bohemian at heart