Maybe Hair and The Who’s Tommy set the bar way high, or else rock musicals are simply challenging -- they didn’t really ignite as a genre on the live stage before Jonathan Larson’s 1996 Rent. Perfectly set on Manhattan’s Lower East Side as the 1980s blurred into the 1990s, featuring artists, addicts, squatters, and free spirits facing romantic issues, neighborhood gentrification, and the horrifying first decade of the AIDS epidemic, the show echoes Puccini’s opera La Bohème.
By now, you might recognize a few songs: “Seasons of Love” (a.k.a. “525,600 Minutes”), “I’ll Cover You,” and “Out Tonight” (famously caterwauled by Penny on The Big Bang Theory). Though we’ve enjoyed sexy, high-energy local productions of Rent already, Phoenix Theatre’s season-opening version (for mature and worldly audiences) should rock severely, with seasoned thespians who’ve been in the show before (some as more than one character in different mountings) and exciting new faces. Thursday, August 29’s curtain is 7:30 p.m. at 100 East McDowell Road. Tickets start at $30 for performances through Sunday, September 15. Call 602-254-2151 or visit www.phoenixtheatre.com.