filmmaker and the show's narrator, is spending a cold Christmas
Eve in the Lower East Side industrial loft he shares with his
roommate Roger, a musician. They receive several phone calls
(TUNE UP/VOICE MAIL #1). The first is from Mark's mother
consoling him over the loss of his girlfriend Maureen, a
performance artist, to JoAnne, a Harvard Law School graduate. The
second is from their friend Tom Collins who is detained by
muggers. The last is from their landlord Benny demanding the
rent. The power blows and so do Roger and Mark's tops (RENT).
Outside, Collins is reeling from the mugging. He is comforted by
Angel, a street musician, who offers him a helping hand (YOU OKAY
HONEY?). Both HIV+, Angel and Collins head out for a night on the
town and a life support meeting.
In response to a call for help, Mark sets out for the lot where
Maureen is performing a protest against Benny's eviction of the
homeless from a nearby lot. He urges Roger to come along but he
refuses. As Mark reports, Roger has not left the apartment in six
months. He is still reeling from the suicide of his girlfriend,
who slashed her wrists upon learning that she had AIDS. Roger
tries to write a song but the only melody he finds is
"Musetta's Waltz" from Puccini's La Bohème (ONE SONG
Mimi, an S&M dancer who lives below Mark and Roger, knocks
with a request: LIGHT MY CANDLE. The attraction between she and
Roger is immediate, but Roger shies away and shows her the door.
Mimi knocks again. She has lost her stash. Roger helps her look
and Mimi eventually finds it- in Roger's back pocket.
As JoAnne wrangles with the sound equipment for Maureen's
performance, her parents leave her VOICE MAIL #2, pleading with
her to come to her mother's confirmation hearings in Washington.
Collins arrives at the loft with a bag full of goodies. This
includes Angel, transvested into Angel Dumott Shunard and
gloriously arrayed in his Christmas finest- wig, glitter, and
platform pumps. In TODAY 4 U, Angel explains how he earned
$1,000: a wealthy woman hired him to play the drums until her
neighbor's yappy Akita barked itself to death.
Benny enters with a proposal (YOU'LL SEE): if Mark and Roger stop
Maureen's protest, he will forgo the rent. He entices them with
plans for Cyber Arts, a state-of-the-art, multimedia studio that
will realize all of their dreams. Unsuccessful, Benny leaves.
Mark, Collins and Angel try to coax Roger into coming to the life
support meeting with them but he refuses.
Mark finally reaches the lot where Maureen will perform her
protest. He encounters JoAnne, still struggling with the sound equipment, fighting with the microphone stands and the many demands Maureen makes upon her. Though they dreaded meeting, they have a lot in
common (TANGO: MAUREEN). Once he finishes, Mark joins Angel and
Collins at the LIFE SUPPORT meeting.
In her apartment, Mimi dresses and appeals to an imaginary Roger
to take her OUT TONIGHT. She barges into his apartment and
continues her appeal to Roger himself but after a passionate kiss
he vehemently rejects her. They fight, her words blending with
the affirmation of the support group that emphasizes the
importance of living the moment (ANOTHER DAY). A young man from
the support group asks quietly "Will I lose my dignity/Will
someone care?" (WILL I?). His thoughts and fears are echoed
by each member of the community. The thoughts are Roger's too,
and he decides to go outside.
After the meeting, Mark, Angel and Collins roam the lot and
rescue a homeless woman from the taunts and nightsticks of the
neighborhood cops (ON THE STREET). Discouraged by life in New
York, the three dream of opening up a restaurant in SANTA FE.
Alone at last, Angel and Collins finally express their love for
each other (I'LL COVER YOU). JoAnne, meanwhile has her hands full
juggling work, parents, and the ever-demanding Maureen...all over
the phone (WE'RE OKAY).
The scene changes to St. Mark's Place where vendors hawk their
wares to the bohemians of the East Village (CHRISTMAS BELLS).
Angel buys a new coat for Collins. Mark finds Roger who spots
Mimi looking for drugs. Roger apologizes and asks her to dinner.
Just as the snow begins to fall, Maureen finally appears on her
motorcycle to perform her protest, OVER THE MOON.
Following the protest, all convene at the Life Café, including
Benny who announces that Bohemia is dead. Thus ensues a makeshift
mock-wake that quickly segues into a celebration of LA VIE
BOHEME. During the song, Benny confronts Mimi and threatens to
reveal their past affair to Roger. Beepers go off to remind the
revelers to take their AZT. Roger and Mimi each discover that the
other is HIV+. Frightened, excited, they vow to be together (I
SHOULD TELL YOU).
JoAnne has been sent back to the lot by Maureen several times to
check on the equipment. She finally rebels, telling Maureen that
their relationship is over and announcing a riot in the lot:
Benny has padlocked the building and called the cops but the
homeless are standing their ground. And mooing. The artists
rejoice, the riot continues, and Roger and Mimi share a small,
The second act
begins with the company posing the question, "How do you
measure a year in the life?" (SEASONS OF LOVE). It is one
week later, New Year's Eve, and Mark, Roger, Mimi, Maureen,
JoAnne, Angel and Collins are having a
breaking-back-into-the-building party (HAPPY NEW YEAR). Once
inside, Mark listens to one more phone message from his mother in
Scarsdale as well as one from Alexi Darling, a tabloid TV
producer salivating over his footage of the riot (VOICE MAIL #3).
Benny crashes the party, angering Roger and alienating Roger from
Mimi. Dejected, Mimi wanders outside and into the welcoming arms
of her drug dealer.
Mark fastforwards to Valentine's Day. Roger and Mimi are still
together. Angel and Collins could be anywhere. Maureen and JoAnne
are still rehearsing another show, but it is not going well (TAKE
ME OR LEAVE ME).
The company reprises SEASONS OF LOVE and time marches forward
again, to spring. Roger and Mimi have a fight and Roger walks
out. Alone, Mimi reflects on what life would be like without
Roger (WITHOUT YOU). At the same time, Collins nurses a sick
Angel; Maureen and JoAnne reconcile; as do Mimi and Roger.
At the end of the summer, Alexi is still courting Mark for her TV
show (VOICE MAIL #4). Roger and Mimi, unsatisfied by love's
complications, break up, as do Maureen and JoAnne. Angel dies
(CONTACT). At a memorial service, his friends remember his
spirit. Collins remembers his love (I'LL COVER YOU: REPRISE).
Outside the church, Mark phones Alexi to accept the job. Mark
ponders how life has changed since last year as he recalls the
joys of that one night last Christmas (HALLOWEEN). As the
mourners leave the church, Mimi confirms that Roger has sold his
guitar and is leaving town. Roger confirms that Mimi is now with
Benny. A fight erupts among Roger, Mimi, Maureen, Benny, and
JoAnne. Collins interrupts them with the sorrowful reality that
the family is breaking up. JoAnne and Maureen reunite. Mimi and
Mark tries to convince Roger to stay in New York and face his
pain and the fact that Mimi is very sick. Roger attacks Mark,
accusing him of hiding from his feelings. Mimi enters, having
overheard the entire angry exchange, and bids Roger farewell
(GOODBYE, LOVE). Roger leaves town. Mimi turns to Mark for help.
Benny offers one helping hand to Mimi and extends the other to
Collins to help him pay Angel's funeral expenses. Mimi refuses
the help and flees. Collins accepts and he and Benny go out for a
Mark considers the events and faces the last year, as does Roger,
who is on his way to Santa Fe. Roger begins to discover his own
song and Mark turns down the television job to finish his own
film (WHAT YOU OWN).
Roger's mom, Mark's mom, Mimi's mom, and JoAnne's father all
wonder where their children are (VOICE MAIL #5). Back at the
loft, Mark tells us again it's Christmas and he now has a rough
version of his film, which he's going to show tonight. Roger has
returned, has written his song, but cannot find Mimi. Collins
enters with money he has gotten from an ATM rewired to give money
to anyone with a special code. The password? Angel.
Maureen and JoAnne suddenly arrive holding Mimi, whom they found
collapsed and near death in the park. Roger begs her not to die
and sings for her the song it has taken him all year to write,
YOUR EYES. Mimi dies as Roger wails her name over a blast of
Puccini's music. Suddenly Mimi awakens, it seems that a guardian
Angel was watching over her.
The company joins in a reprise of the affirmation that love is
all and that there is "no day but today" (FINALE).