Friday, April 26, 2002 | 9:51 a.m.
"Rent," one of only five Broadway musicals to win both a Pulitzer Prize for drama and multiple Tony Awards, had a successful run last year at the Las Vegas Hilton, and plays even better this year in the Aladdin Theatre for the Performing Arts.
Based on Giacomo Puccini's opera "La Boheme," "Rent" tells the story of a year in the lives of a group of Manhattan bohemians.
Mark (played by David Oliver Cohen) is an aspiring documentary filmmaker and the show's narrator. Roger (Kevin Spencer), a guitarist trying to write that one great song, is Mark's roommate. Roger is HIV-positive, as is Mimi (Krystal L. Washington), his newfound beloved, who is also a junkie.
For opera lovers wishing to make a comparison to "La Boheme," Mark would be Marcello; Roger, Rudolfo; and Mimi is Mimi in both versions. The 15-member cast is uniformly excellent. Performances, acting and singing, are outstanding. There is virtually nothing to criticize in what is a Broadway-quality road production.
Complete in two acts, the show opens on Christmas Eve in the apartment of Mark and Roger in an East Village New York City tenement. There is a rousing full-company scene in the Life Cafe and an equally vital Christmas Eve street scene with vendors selling used goods, coats and incense. The production ends on Christmas Eve, a year later.
Other principals are Maureen (Jordan Ballard), a performer, Mark's girl who leaves him for Joanne (Bridget Anne Mohammed), a lesbian lawyer. Tom Collins (Bruce Wilson Jr.) is a philosophy teacher who falls in love with Angel, a transvestite street musician, also HIV-positive, brilliantly depicted by Las Vegan Justin Rodriguez.
Benny (Matthew S. Morgan) is the landlord, coming to evict the homeless from a vacant lot next door. The story line follows the brief relationships between Roger and Mimi and Collins and Angel. The action is high-energy and nonstop for nearly two hours, including a 25-minute intermission.
The lyrics and music are a near-perfect complement to the plot. A cast CD would be worth having in one's collection. "Seasons of Love," at the start of Act II, and "Without You," two numbers later, a duet by Roger and Mimi, were especially well-received. Recommended for opera buffs and non-opera buffs alike.