Bye Bye, Birdie. Hello, Rent

The high school musical has graduated from Oklahoma! — and from High School Musical too

Lyle Rolfe

Students at West Aurora High School run through a dress rehearsal of Rent in Aurora, Illinois.

Donna Letzter, the theater director at West Aurora High School in Aurora, Ill., has put on ambitious shows in the past like Cats and Les Misérables, and last year she even figured out a way to get a helicopter to lift off the stage for a production of Miss Saigon. But that was kid stuff compared her challenge this spring: staging the nation's first licensed high school edition of Rent. Though the script had been pruned of most of the roughest material, this is still a musical in which most of the characters are either on drugs, suffering from AIDS, or...

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