Review Roundup: Anthony Rapp's WITHOUT YOU Opens At New World Stages

The production features the music of Jonathan Larson's RENT along with original songs and compositions by Anthony Rapp, David Matos, and Joe Pisapia.

Video: Jodie Comer Is Coming for Her Tony Award

Without You, written and performed by Anthony Rapp, directed by Steven Maler with musical direction by Daniel A. Weiss opens tonight, Wednesday, January 25, 2023 at New World Stages. Read the reviews!

The production features the music of Jonathan Larson's RENT along with original songs and compositions by Anthony Rapp, David Matos, and Joe Pisapia; orchestration, original compositions, and musical direction by Daniel A. Weiss, with additional arrangements by Tom Kitt.

In 1994, Anthony Rapp was twenty-two, out of money and working at a Starbucks, about to audition for a new musical by a young writer named Johnathan Larson. That musical was the global phenomenon RENT. This is where the story of WITHOUT YOU begins. Based on the New York Times bestseller of the same name and backed by a 5-piece rock band, Anthony shares his unimaginable real-life story of the early years of RENT in this intimate evening of unsurpassed joy and unspeakable loss.

The creative team includes set and lighting design by Eric Southern, costume design by Angela Vesco, sound design by Tony Award-winner Brian Ronan, and projection design by David Bengali. Led by Daniel A. Weiss the band includes Clerida Eltime (Cello), Paul Gil (Bass), Jerry Marotta (Drums), and Lee Moretti (Guitar).

Without You is executive produced by Lisa Dozier; with Royal Family Productions, Cue to Cue Productions, Ryohei Otani/Motoko Kimura, Brian J. Heck/Harish Karthikeyan, Jason Turchin/ Shimmy Braun, Charlotte Cohn, Margarida De Brito, Abigail E. Disney, and creative producer Chris Henry. Denise Savas is the Production Stage Manager. Production Manager is Intuitive. LDK Productions is the General Manager.

Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Times: The composer's abrupt death from an aortic aneurysm after the first dress rehearsal has entered musical-theater legend, and while Rapp was understandably devastated, "Without You" is, just as understandably, more poignant when he's dealing with his mother's yearslong decline. The actor recounts frequent trips to Joliet, Ill., where Mary lived, and re-enacts phone calls in which he plays both parts of the conversation (though in general he struggles to differentiate women's voices, which all end up sounding the same). He also punctuates his mother's side of the narrative with songs he co-wrote, mostly in an amiable indie-rock vein (the music director Daniel A. Weiss leads a punchy five-piece band from behind the keyboards). But it is hard to step away from the shadow "Rent" casts, then as now, on Rapp's life: He circles back to that show with a rendition of the number "Without You" at his mother's memorial. You would have to be made of stone to not be moved.

Thom Geier, The Wrap: Even after 25 years, he can still tap into the raw emotions of his grief - though his account of his mother, and of Larson, sometimes lacks the particulars to fully bring them to life as individuals. (His attempts to mimic her voice are awkward, weakened further by an intrusive sound effect that makes it seem like we're overhearing a tinny phone conversation.) Indeed, the final third of the 90-minute show mostly recirculates basic maxims of coping with grief and loss ("the only way out is through") that will seem familiar to anyone who's stumbled on the self-help section of a book store or library, or spent more than an hour or so watching daytime talk shows.

Gillian Russo, New York Theatre Guide: Rapp doesn't quite succeed in integrating his two throughlines, making Without You feel like two separate shows at once. There's a chasm between the rollicking energy of the Rent sections, punctuated by Larson's tunes at both joyous and sorrowful moments, and the mellow straightforwardness of the family sections, scored by Rapp's easygoing original songs. (A live five-piece band supports all of Rapp's vocals.) There's little consistency between the two, both musically and visually - the carefully curated, stylized Rent-inspired projections give way to generic art as Rapp sings his own music. And a country-inspired tune about a cancerous tumor dubbed "Wild Bill" stands out as particularly bizarre, not quite matching either section's tone.

Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater: Given how long Rapp has lived with this show, he gives a remarkably in-the-moment performance, as if it's all unfolding as we watch it, even though he speaks in the past tense. Still, it feels something of a missed opportunity that the show doesn't reflect the passage of time. Anthony Rapp is a husband and a father now, a middle aged man who is trying to replicate his youth, rather than looking back at it. Such a sense of reflection might have made "Without You" deeper, and even more rewarding.



Anthony Rapp's WITHOUT YOU Celebrates 100 Performances at New World Stages

Last night, the cast and crew of Anthony Rapp's Without You celebrated its 100 performances at New World Stages at Restaurant Row's Hold Fast, where producer Lisa Dozier toasted the team and presented Daniel A Weiss (orchestrator and music director), Stephen Maler (director), Anthony Rapp, and Royal Family Productions Mark Falconer with a signed print created by renowned artist Justin. Squigs” Robertson.

Anthony Rapp's WITHOUT YOU Extends Through Early June

Anthony Rapp's solo musical Without You will extend its run at New World Stages. See how to purchase tickets!

Video: Jenn Colella Joins Anthony Rapp on Stage at WITHOUT YOU

Jenn Colella made a special guest appearance at Anthony Rapp's show, Without You, for a surprise performance of Take Me Or Leave Me from Rent! Check out the performance in the video here!

Video: Anthony Rapp & Fredi Walker-Browne Duet 'What You Own'

Watch original Rent cast member Fredi Walker-Browne join Anthony Rapp on stage at Without You at New World Stages, to duet 'What You Own' from Rent!



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