It's surprising that Shadowbox Live is just getting around to staging a production of "Rent," a Broadway musical perfectly made for the troupe's bohemian style.

It's surprising that Shadowbox Live is just getting around to staging a production of "Rent," a Broadway musical perfectly made for the troupe's bohemian style.

Following eight twentysomethings in the late '80s as they deal with life, love and social issues in New York's gritty Alphabet City, "Rent" can feel dated, but its emotional weight is still timeless.

Tom Cardinal and Jerrod Roberts as a couple just finding love do much of the heavy lifting. Street-drumming drag queen Angel (Cardinal) and radical academic Tom Collins (Roberts) are both dealing with AIDS. They have a sweet, uncomplicated chemistry, captured perfectly in the duet "I'll Cover You."

Cardinal's Angel may not be the most attractive woman, but he gets bonus points for a fun, spirited rendition of "Today 4 U," a song that largely deals with the killing of a dog.

Despite being in a considerably more complicated relationship, musician Roger (Brandon Anderson) and dancer Mimi (Nikki Fagin), also both dealing with AIDS, find quick chemistry during their playful first meeting.

Valerie Witherspoon's performance artist Maureen is sharp and funny, especially during her break-up duet with girlfriend Joanne (Kara Wilkinson).

Rounding out the cast are John Boyd as filmmaker Mark and J.T. Walker III as corporate sellout Benny, doing solid work in the musical's two more thankless roles.

It's a great show, boosted by excellent stage direction from Stev Guyer and choreography from Katy Psenicka, including crowd-pleasers "La Vie Boheme" and the somber "Seasons of Love."