BWW Reviews: WITHOUT YOU by Anthony Rapp
It's been said that an artist's primary goal is to create something unique and specific that is at the same time universally identifiable. As a performer, Anthony Rapp has been doing just that since the age of 9, most notably as Mark Cohen in the hit musical "Rent". Now, Rapp has added author to his list of artistic credits and the results are simultaneously unique and universal.
"Without You" is the story of Rapp's involvement with the musical "Rent", from its humble off-Broadway beginnings in 1994 to its 2005 film version, all the while privately coping with the fact that his mother was dying of cancer. Rentheads may read the book looking for yet another inside perspective on their favorite show, but only the most hardened fan could fail to become engrossed in the backstage story as well - that of Rapp's personal life. The book is subtitled 'a memoir of love, loss and the musical "Rent"'. This is a letter-perfect distillation of Rapp's intimate and compelling story. "Rent" is also driven by themes of love and loss and the untimely passing of composer Jonathan Larson on the eve of its premiere added real-life reinforcement to "Rent"s onstage tale and Rapp's offstage journey. Many have said that it was this tragic twist of fate that helped catapult the musical to it's critical and public success. Like his character in "Rent", Rapp was plunged into the middle of a whirlwind of loss and an outpouring of love. Add to this the gradual loss of his mother to a protractEd Battle with cancer and the the two themes almost demand attention. While it is one thing to recognize the inexorable connection between love and loss, it is quite another to be able to assemble them into something that is entertaining, thought-provoking, and ultimately moving. Rapp never shies away from revealing his feelings of anger, lust, and regret. As a seasoned performer, he knows that to create a fully developed character, on the page or the stage, one can't always be the likeable hero. The book ultimately marries his off-stage sadness with his onstage success. At first it is a rocky marriage, with Rapp experiencing a roller coaster of emotional reactions to his mother's illness and passing. But as he forges ahead in the healing process, with the musical never far in the background, hope appears on the horizon. Our hope is that Rapp continues to explore his art on both sides of the footlights.
Since the book's 2006 publication, Rapp has created and performed a one-man show based on "Without You", that has played in London and is currently touring. A recording of the show is newly available on PS Classics.