Before he ever saw the play, Brad King heard the music.
"I was introduced to it through the soundtrack. I was at Francis Marion in 1997, and all of the theater students had it," said King, who plays Mark in the Aiken Community Playhouse version of Rent , which opens May 20.
In the ensuing 14 years, King has seen the play and the movie and waited for his opportunity to take part in the show.
"Any one part would do. The show is all about interpersonal relationships," he said. "Every character has a great range of emotions."
Written by Jonathan Larson, who lived in poverty and died just short of his 36th birthday without seeing it performed on Broadway or knowing its success, Rent is a modern-day version of Puccini's opera La Boheme .
Where tuberculosis was the scourge of Puccini's day, the characters in 1990s New York City deal with the menace of HIV and AIDS. The show ran for 12 years on and off Broadway.
Bradley Watts, who is directing Rent , said it's his dream show to direct.
"I love this show," he said. "It's powerful. It has such a beautiful meaning, and the characters are so well-written."
The show has been a tough one to direct, Watts said. Larson took seven years to write the score for the rock opera.
"This is my first time directing a sing-through musical. The music is very difficult," he said.
Taylor Medeiros, who plays Angel, said he knew the role would be a challenge. Angel's high vocals have required him to work overtime to get in shape for the part he has wanted to play for 12 years.
It's been worth it, he said.
"Angel is the glue who holds family and friends together. I love that," he said.
Rent has an ethnically diverse and devoted cast. Cast members drive from as far away as Thomson and Orangeburg, S.C., to be part of the show.
CHARMAIN Z. BRACKETT/SPECIAL