Rent Merkaz Edna Jerusalem June 11 If the rooftop performance space and blasting rock-opera weren't stunning enough, the Israeli debut production of Jonathan Larson's hit Broadway musical Rent, which went up Thursday night in Jerusalem, could easily have been held aloft by the energy and charisma of the actors. The story of eight friends living the Bohemian life in 1990s New York City while struggling with AIDS, drugs and a scanty cash flow, Rent follows the group through one year of tumultuous relationships and a battle with the sellout landlord who used to be one of their own. Complex musically and marked by several elaborate ensemble pieces, this is, as choreographer Marvin Casey remarked to The Jerusalem Post, "not a show for newbies." So considering that most of the amateur cast in this effort by Merkaz Hamagshimim-Hadassah's Center Stage Theater had little-to-no background in singing and dance, the results were impressive. Of particular note was the rallying performance of ensemble number "La Vie Boheme," which had the full cast dancing on a tabletop in defense of Bohemia, and included a moonwalk by narrator and protagonist Mark (David Hilfstein). Saphira Tessler was delightful as bubbly drama queen Maureen, and her rendition of "Over the Moon" rivaled the Broadway version - as did "Out Tonight" and the heart-wrenching "Without You," both sung by Miryam Sidikman (Mimi). Besides the well-arranged and talented ensemble, Sidikman and Tessler carried the show vocally, though there were also strong performances from Arielle Yahalom (Joanne), Hilfstein and Aaron Johnson (Tom Collins). An encore of the famed "Seasons of Love" and a standing ovation brought opening night to a triumphant close, a good omen for this lively show about facing death.