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BWW Interview: IF/THEN's Anthony Rapp Talks Life-Changing Moments and More

Anthony Rapp is best known for his role in RENT, but that's a show that could've happened without him if he had been offered and accepted another job.

In 1994, he was in a slow career period, feeling broke and a little scared. He was not getting cast but was close to several jobs. "I cannot tell you what they were now, but then they felt really important," said Rapp, who had taken his first "survival job" at Starbucks when he got the call to do a 12-week workshop that completely changed his career, and his life, in a profound way. "In every way possible," Rapp said.

That moment of "if (because) this happened, then that happened," could've just as easily sent Rapp down another road. Now, starring in the first national tour of IF/THEN, Rapp plays Lucas, an old college friend of leading character Elizabeth (Jackie Burns), who encounters her upon her return to New York City after a divorce and the beginnings of a new life in her old city. The contemporary new musical follows two parallel storylines in her life; one where she goes with Lucas and her life follows the path of "Beth," the name Lucas calls her, and the other follows "Liz," as she chooses a different friend's invitation and ends up in a completely different life. "Small decisions can completely alter the course of your life," Rapp said.

He said that this similarity is happenstance in a way, but the theme arose during a 20th anniversary panel discussion with cast and production team members from the original cast of RENT at January's inaugural BroadwayCon, a convention for theatre lovers that had its first successful run during NYC's late January blizzard. Rapp is one of the founders of BroadwayCon with his friend Melissa Anelli of Mischief Management, whom he met back during RENT's early days at the stage door. Another if/then moment -- had these two not formed a friendship, would someone have started BroadwayCon? We'll never know. The RENT panel members all discussed where they were when the opportunity for the show came about and how they almost chose not to take it. They were all glad they had, though none of them knew what it would become at that point in time. Most have gone on to huge career successes that may have happened anyway, but maybe not. The decision to take that job provided a life most could not have dreamed of.

Rapp actually has been acting professionally since age 9, and says he has been very picky but very fortunate to be able to work creating magical theatre like RENT, YOU'RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN, PRECIOUS SONS and now IF/THEN. He also starred as Lucas in the Broadway production; in fact, the part was written for him by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey. "It's a real honor," he said. "It's like having a custom fitted suit -- it just fits." Kitt and Yorkey were able to use Rapp's sensitivities and qualities as an actor and singer to fit the part over and over in the workshop and rehearsal process until it fitted perfectly. IF/THEN Director Michael Grief also directed the original production of RENT.

Touring with IF/THEN has given Rapp an opportunity to travel the country and have everything scheduled and taken care of for him, which he enjoys, but also to see friends in other cities and experience the slightly different flavor of audiences each city has.

New York City itself is seen by many as almost another character in IF/THEN. "Not that many other cities have so much going on in the streets," Rapp said. "Intersections of people and interactions" that lead to opportunities for things to happen. Having lived in NYC for a long time, even as large a city as it is with millions of people, Rapp says he still runs into people he knows all the time, like a small town in a big city.

IF/THEN presents ideas, but does not tell people what to think, he said. Whether following Liz or Beth's journey, it's about taking a step back and exploring moment to moment as her life unfolds. It's up to the viewer if choice or chance wins the day.

Rapp's choices going forward look pretty clear. He will explore doing more productions of his one-man show, WITHOUT YOU and taking advantage of some time off. And he will continue in his role as a founder and organizer for BroadwayCon 2017, which has not been announced officially but is guaranteed to return.

"I'm a part of the inner circle forever," he said. Rapp provided contacts and credibility of this new event in the community as Anelli and her team worked on all the details of the event. "I'm not a convention planner or anything."

BroadwayCon was tremendous, Rapp said. "Exactly the right kind of energy and tone was set." Despite the blizzard that shut the city down for the second day of the event, the show went on and he and the team were flexible and just rolled with it when they had people unable to get to town or found themselves with a hotel full of fans who couldn't attend Broadway shows that night.

For example, the main stage was the scene of what was dubbed the "Party Line," where organizers sat on stage dialing phone numbers of industry contacts and interviewing them with a microphone up to their cellphones. Not just any contacts -- the likes of Patti LuPone, Joel Grey, Idina Menzel and many more, including a Facetime conversation with Jeremy Jordan in Los Angeles. "It provided cool, meaningful moments with each of the artists for the audience, and (the artists) got to feel part of the flavor of the event in a small way," he said.

Rapp takes the stage in Minneapolis March 8 - 13, 2016.

Tickets for IF/THEN start at $39 (subject to change) depending on performance time and seating preference. All prices include applicable facility fees. Additional service charges may apply. Tickets may be purchased in person (no service fees) at the State Theatre Box Office, 805 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, online at, by calling 1.800.982.2787 or visiting a Ticketmaster Center. Groups of 10 or more save, and should contact MinneapolisGroups@broadwayacrossamerica or call 612.373.5665 for information and reservations.

Performances are at Hennepin Theatre Trust's Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis.Performance times are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m.

Pictured: Tamyra Gray and Anthony Rapp. Photo by Joan Marcus.

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