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BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp

Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp

Today's subjects, Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp, are most commonly associated with one particular Broadway show - Rent. This Friday night, April 28th, you can see them join forces once again at the Music Center at Strathmore in Bethesda, Maryland, and it promises to be a really good time. It may also introduce you other aspects of their theatre lives since that groundbreaking 1990s musical.

Anthony Rapp might be known to you as Mark Cohen from Rent, but what you might not know is that he was a child actor. He started on Broadway working with some rather big stars in some not so big shows. At the age of ten, he shared the stage with Michael York in a little "gem" called The Little Prince and the Aviator, which closed during previews. He also was in a play that I personally enjoyed, but lacked audience. That one was called Precious Sons and starred Ed Harris and Judith Ivey. Since then, Anthony's luck on the New York stage has changed for the better. He starred in the musicals You're a Good Man Charlie Brown and If/Then and, on the dramatic side, Henry V, Nocturne, and Some Americans Abroad.

His film and TV credits include Rent, Blackbird, A Beautiful Mind, Adventures in Babysitting, The X Files, and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. He is currently filming Star Trek: Discovery. He's also written a memoir and performed a solo show entitled Without You.

Adam Pascal catapulted to musical theatre fame playing the role of Roger in Rent after singing in various rock bands for years. He also performed the show in London. Since then he has starred on Broadway in Aida and performed the role of the Emcee in Cabaret. He has also starred in Memphis, Chicago and Something Rotten on Broadway. He is currently touring the country with the latter.

On the big and small screen, you might have seen Adam in School of Rock, Cold Case, Alleluia! The Devil's Carnival, and, of course, the movie version of Rent. He has recorded two solo CDs, and has contributed material and/or vocals to many other recordings, including Broadway Cares: Home for the Holidays.

This week's concert at Strathmore promises to be an unforgettable evening and seeing two excellent performers like Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp should be reason enough to make you want to attend. Two artists living their theatre lives to the fullest warms my heart and I'm sure if you go to the concert, you'll feel the same way.

Were you a theatre kid growing up, and what was the show that made you say "I want to do this for a living"?

Anthony Rapp (AR)- I was. My first show was when I was six years old at a summer camp. I played the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. I was hooked. I had a very supportive mom too, which helped.

Adam Pascal (AP)- I was not. Actually, I never had that 'aha' moment. I was playing in bands before Rent. It was my first audition and my first attempt in the theatre.

L-R Ed Harris, Anthony Rapp and Judith Ivey in Precious Sons.

Where did you receive your training?

AR- On the job as a kid. Then came the voice and dance lessons. I spent two summers at Interlochen as well. I received on the job training with Ed Harris on Broadway in a play called Precious Sons and also with a wonderful teacher Sande Shurin.

AP- The school of hard knocks. Training is anything that prepares you for the future. Playing in NYC rock clubs is great training for theatre performers because you start at the worst possible venues and work your way up. I walk out on stage and see an audience and I'm amazed because of the empty bars I use to play.

L-R Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal in the original production of Rent. Photo by Joan Marcus.

You and your Rent co-star are coming to Strathmore at the end of this week. Can you please tell us a little bit about how this show came about and what should audiences expect to hear?

AR- We've been doing our own concerts over the years. It was Adam's idea to come together. It's a really fun way to join forces. People can expect to hear Rent, plus other original rock and pop songs, and covers of other artists who inspire us. It's a pretty eclectic mix.

AP- It came about because we were out doing our own gigs. If we do something together we can get bigger audiences. Depending on the venue, we'll do an acoustic show or sometimes with a full band.

Anthony, although many people only associate you with Rent you have been on Broadway several other times. One show that only us theatre geeks will remember you from is a little gem called The Little Prince and the Aviator. Can you please talk about the experience of working on that show and why do you think the producers chose to never officially open it on Broadway?

I was ten years old. It was a fun time. I got to fly and be on a planet. Michael York and Ellen Greene were great. I can't speak to a lot of things, but I was very sad when we closed so fast.

Anthony, you've also performed in a fair number of non-musicals, including Shakespeare plays. Do you approach non- singing roles differently or is your process the same no matter what the project is?

The only approach that's different for a straight play is that no vocal maintenance is needed. There are just some technical differences and that's about it.

Adam Pascal as the Emcee in Cabaret. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Adam, you went into the revival of Cabaret towards the end of its run in New York. Can you please talk about the experience of being put into a show that is already running?

I've done it a number of times and I actually rather do that than create a new role in a show. It's much less stressful. Once I got married it gave me stability. I never found it particularly difficult. I can make it my own while trying to keep the template that's been created.

Can you find Adam Pascal in this early career shot with a band called Wine and Vision?

We all know Jonathan Larson passed away before Rent became the sensation it did. If he were still with us today, where do you think Jonathan Larson would be career wise?

AR- Closest to it would be what Lin- Manuel Miranda's career is now. Current events would have been a big part of his career. Like Miranda, he also believed in the relevance and power of theatre.

AP- I think that he would have had his ups and downs and varying degrees of success. Similar to what he had before Rent. That's the sign of a career that has longevity.

If you and your co-star were dream cast in another show together, what show would you want it to be?

AR- Sam Shepard's True West just to be able to play off of him again. He had no acting experience before Rent. He has a commitment to truth and authenticity. To play other dramatic moments with him would be fantastic.

AP- The Producers with me playing Max and him playing Leo. There is something about those two characters that is similar to us. Or maybe The Odd Couple because it's about two guys who are different, but are friends just like us, so that would be fun.

Special thanks to Mike Fila at Bucklesweet Media for his assistance in coordinating this interview.

Theatre Life logo designed by Kevin Laughon.

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