Anthony Rapp Returns To The Stage In ‘Without You,’ A Musical Version Of His Memoir
It’s been practically 27 years ― or 14,191,200 minutes ― since “Rent” grew to become a cultural phenomenon and endeared Anthony Rapp to a era of theatergoers. Although Rapp had been performing since childhood, his stirring portrayal of Mark Cohen in Jonathan Larson’s 1996 musical was, by all accounts, a career-defining breakout.
Sadly, Larson died immediately of an aortic aneurysm only one evening earlier than “Rent” premiered off-Broadway. The present, after all, later transferred to Broadway, the place it grew to become a smash hit and gained a Pulitzer Prize. Behind the scenes, Rapp was not solely mourning Larson’s loss of life however had additionally begun to grapple along with his mom’s terminal most cancers prognosis.
The juxtaposition of Rapp’s skilled success and private grief is explored in “Without You,” which opened Wednesday at New World Stages in New York. Tailored from the Chicago-born actor’s 2006 memoir, the one-man musical is a hybrid of a rock live performance and a poignant monologue, carried out on a minimalist set that evokes Manhattan’s East Village within the mid-Nineties.
Rapp started growing “Without You” about 15 years in the past and launched an album of songs from the present in 2012. Nonetheless, the present manufacturing is impeccably timed, as Larson’s affect will be seen and heard in “Hamilton” and “A Strange Loop,” amongst different fashionable musicals. Final yr, Andrew Garfield obtained an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Larson within the movie “Tick, Tick… Boom!”
Rapp is a heat and fascinating storyteller, sharing anecdotes about Larson and his mom with humor and gravitas. He even adapts his mother’s Midwestern drawl in quite a few endearing scenes, together with one by which he recollects his awkward popping out as homosexual at age 18.
The excessive factors in “Without You” are the “Rent” showstoppers, introduced right here together with a number of authentic music. Rapp is in sterling voice on “What You Own” and “La Vie Bohème,” sounding at instances much more supple than he did on the 1996 solid album. The huge shock is simply how successfully he reimagines these songs as solo vignettes that match his private narrative.
“Without You” ends on an emotional excessive word with the loss of life of Rapp’s mom, adopted by a full-throttle rendition of “Seasons of Love.” Nonetheless, the actor’s omission of newer milestones is a missed alternative that makes the present really feel inconclusive. In addition to additional stints on Broadway, he’s starred on “Star Trek: Discovery” as Lt. Paul Stamets, one of many franchise’s first homosexual principal characters, for 4 seasons. And final month, he and fiancé Ken Ithiphol grew to become first-time fathers to a son, Rai Larson. (Understandably, he additionally makes no point out of the civil lawsuit he filed, and misplaced, in opposition to actor Kevin Spacey alleging sexual misconduct.)
It will be compelling to see Rapp replicate on taking part in a queer character on a significant tv collection or share what parenthood has taught him in a future iteration of “Without You,” or a brand new creative endeavor altogether. For now, he’s providing moments of connection in an isolating age by the use of Larson’s songs and backstage recollections. For legions of “Rent” followers ― or “Rentheads” ― that could be sufficient.