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'Rent'

'Rent' is still touching hearts 20 years later after its Broadway debut. 

As part of its 20th anniversary tour, the rock opera “Rent” stopped in Billings Thursday for a sold-out show at Alberta Bair Theater.

The night was frigid in Billings so it was easy to relate to the chill in Mark and Roger’s unheated New York City flat. The plot line of young Bohemians finding their voice in the cold, cruel world still rings true today. As we watch one of the most-loved characters in the show, Angel, succumb to AIDS, we are reminded of the AIDS epidemic of the 1990s when the show was written and debuted on Broadway. It is encouraging to know that since then, advances have been made in the treatment of AIDS, extending the lives of its victims.

Aaron Alcaraz as Angel is a standout in the musical, not just because of his infectious spirit, but his vocals and his dancing (even in stilettos) are among the show’s highlights.

Other standouts included Devinre Adams as Tom Collins with a voice so emotive you could feel his pain and Lyndie Moe as the fun and feisty Maureen Johnson.

Directed by Evan Ensign, the two-act musical features 32 songs, making for a jam-packed 2½-hour show. "Rent," is based on Puccini's "La Boheme."

There were many enthusiastic fans in the audience of the ABT, mooing along with Maureen as she performed her hilarious one-woman monologue, and clapping along with the cast when they performed the big number, "Seasons of Love."

But it was clear that some members of the audience were not familiar with the plot of “Rent,” and a few left during intermission. Yet, I sat next to a middle-aged couple who told me they were unfamiliar with the show and they hollered enthusiastically during the sustained ovation at its finish. That made for a perfect ending.

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Entertainment Reporter

Jaci Webb covers entertainment for The Billings Gazette.