THE BEST THEATER OF 1996

1 RENT (the musical). Even if author-composer Jonathan Larson had not died just weeks before its off-Broadway opening, Rent would have hit like a thunderclap. A rock update of La Boheme set in the age of AIDS, it brimmed with energy, lyric intelligence and streetwise spirit. If not quite another Hair (more memorable melodies would have helped), Rent brought the old-fashioned musical resoundingly into the '90s. Then it moved to Broadway, won Tonys and...(see below)

2 The Beckett Festival. For Samuel Beckett, life was a painful, poignant marking of time between the crib and the crypt. But no event this year...

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