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I caught a performance of Rent at the Birch North Park Theater. The production was put up by San Diego Musical Theater. The show had good energy, some good singing, and some great singing.

Rent is based on Puccini’s La Boheme but manages to be its own show instead of just updating Boheme. I enjoyed the show but what kept stealing my attention throughout the evening was following the character development and comparing it to Puccini.

The “big one” is that Mimi lives. Her tuberculosis in Boheme is AIDS and heroin in Rent. In this way, Mimi is a less innocent character in Rent. While AIDS and heroin aren’t necessarily conscious, purposeful choices, they aren’t the same as contracting TB.

On top of that, Mimi is sexually forward with Roger (Rodolpho) in a way that is terrifying once it is revealed that she also has AIDS. It made me question her motives. Who knowingly has AIDS yet tries to seduce a stranger? It would have made more sense to keep her character free of AIDS which would have increased the dramatic tension in her relationship with Roger. A heroin addiction would have been sufficient.

Roger also has AIDS but restrains himself while Mimi literally wiggles her ass at him. This is a great source of conflict and drama that disappears once we learn Mimi also has AIDS. Neither Roger nor Mimi needs to have AIDS unless they’re going to die in the show, which they don’t.

When Mimi comes back from her near death experience, she and Roger cling to each other and there is an “everything is going to be alright” feeling. Well, they both still have AIDS and she’s still addicted to heroin. So she dies next week instead?

The sweetness and grace that characterize Mimi in Boheme was given to Angel in Rent and it is Angel who dies. This is the heart of the show. To be honest I didn’t care much about what happened to Mimi and Roger. It was all about Angel and Collins and they are wonderful characters.

The performances of Rent run through this coming weekend at The Birch.

Mimi introduces herself in La Boheme. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTagFD...

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