The late Jonathan Larson's rock opera Rent won tons of accolades when it opened in the mid-'90s. Even before it landed on Broadway the show was the stuff of legend. Created in a theater in the East Village by a much-beloved writer who died hours before his Pulitzer- and Tony Award-winning show opened, Rentspoke to a generation of young people who came of age in the shadow of AIDS. The funky retelling of Puccini's La Bohème features a cast of edgy youngsters who live hand-to-mouth among street people and musicians. At the play's center is Mimi, a ravishingly sexy, seemingly doomed club dancer and junkie. But where Puccini's Mimi died of consumption, our lady of the East Village has AIDS. She falls in love with a musician named Roger, who hasn't been able to write a new song since his girlfriend committed suicide after discovering that she had AIDS.
Throw in a transvestite named Angel and a lesbian couple who thrive on love trouble, and musical theater begins to look more like lower Westheimer. 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 9, through Friday, March 12; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, March 13; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, March 14. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For tickets, call 713-629-3700 or visit www.ticketmaster.com. $24.25 to $56.25. -- Lee Williams
'Faced with Dave
Born in Queens and raised on Long Island, Dave Attell has dedicated his life to his two passions: comedy and sweet, life-affirming booze. Attell's TV show, Insomniac on Comedy Central, has established him as the drinking man's drinking man. In it, he roams the United States and Europe getting 'faced with locals in their favorite hotspots and dives. It's rumored in the comedy community that Attell opted to do a season in Europe because it was no longer possible for him to tape segments at home without being interrupted by drunken worshipers. The last time he played Houston, Attell drew such hordes to the Laff Stop that people had to be turned away. This time, the Improv's 400-plus seats should accommodate every reveler who wants to, as the Insomniac theme song goes, "Kick the sandman in his sack." 8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 4; 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Friday, March 5; 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. Saturday, March 6; 7 p.m. Sunday, March 7. Marq*E Center, 7620 Katy Freeway, 713-333-8800, www.improvhouston.com. $25 to $30. -- Eric A.T. Dieckman
ASTORIA, Take Two
Astoria -- the dance, not the hotel -- has been updated, revamped and revived. Jennifer Wood of Suchu Dance, the brains behind the show in both its first and second incarnations, has been hailed as one of Houston's most innovative choreographers. "Astoria is about a sense of peering back deeply into the distant past, creating a feeling of nostalgia," Wood says. The show features her caffeinated choreography, including a highly unstylized tango, a giddy lindy hop, as well as vintage costumes and, as always, a diverse musical selection. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, March 4 through March 13. Barnevelder Movement/Arts Complex, 2201 Preston. For information, call 713-529-1819 or visit www.suchudance.org. $10 to $16.- Nancy Galeota-Wozny
From folky, protest-song child star to out 'n' proud lesbian, Janis Ian's life in the public eye has taken as many twists and turns as her signature Afro. But her mad songwriting skillz are what's kept the public's eyes on her in the first place. Check out where Ian's winding road has landed her at 6 p.m. Sunday, March 7. McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk. For information, call 713-528-5999 or visit www.mcgonigels.com. $20. -- Lisa Simon