Adam Pascal & Anthony Rapp Rent Out Pollak

Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp, better known as Roger and Mark from the Broadway musical and film Rent, performed at Pollak Theatre this past Saturday.

Pascal is currently starring in the Broadway musical Memphis while Rapp is on tour with his one-man autobiographical show Without You, based on his memoir about being on Broadway as well as his family life.

Pascal entered with a medley of Jeff Buckley’s “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” and “Johanna” from Sweeny Todd. The next song, “Solsbury Hill” by Peter Gabriel, was more upbeat. The audience cheered when Rapp came on stage to join Pascal as a duet.

It was slightly disappointing when Rapp left the stage afterward. It was almost a tease to hear the two singers perform together and then separate. After all, their collaborative selections are what most of the audience came for, but my attention was captured once again when Pascal began his set.

Pascal introduced a song called “Turn the Lights On” from his new record, Blinding Light, which he recorded with his pianist and musical director Larry Edoff. Pascal then graciously handed the stage over to him for a song Edoff wrote titled “Love Will Always Come Back.” Toward the end of the song, Pascal presented strong vocals for a more intense musical impact.

He continued sharing stories from his experiences on Broadway, including rude audiences and his time performing in what he defined as the show that had the most impact on him as a singer, actor and person, Cabaret. His acting background was evident, even for those who had never heard of him. His natural presence on stage is compelling and humorous. “The stories both performers told were very entertaining, too. It was nice how personal they were,” said freshman Shannon Yingst.

To follow up his Cabaret anecdotes, he performed a medley of songs from the show. The Broadway selections continued with a number from West Side Story. Pascal offered one more song from his new record before ending with “Love is Never Gone” from the Broadway production of A Chorus Line.

The audience anxiously waited for Rapp to return to the stage, and he did so with an original song that had a different energy than Pascal. Rapp was quirky and his songs had a bit faster tempo. Personally, I enjoyed Rapp’s original songs more than Pascal’s, though both singers’ works were phenomenal.

Rapp covered some songs the audience might have known like “Creep” by Radiohead and R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion,” which I recognized as soon as the melody started. Rapp mentioned the R.E.M. song changed his life and he even used this tune to audition for Mark in Rent. Rapp has the perfect voice for “Losing My Religion” and could easily have rivaled R.E.M. This was my favorite part of the night alongside the Rent songs to follow. It wasn’t hard to see that the entire audience was mouthing the words to the classic rock ballad.

Rapp continued with “Origin” from the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and introduced his keyboardist and musical director Dan Weiss. Not only is he touring with Rapp, but he was also a part of the original Rent band. Together they played a song they wrote in honor of Freddie Mercury called “Moment to Fly,” followed by a cover of “Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads.

The upbeat cover was preceded by the most emotional part of the night as Rapp talked about his mother’s battle with cancer while he was in Rent. He would fly home to visit her on his days off until she finally passed away. He dedicated the next number, “Visits,” to her. The soft acoustic tone had eyes watering.

Afterward, he cheered the audience up with an original break-up song as well as introduced the first Rent song of the night. Prior to singing, Rapp said that this was the song he sang at his mother’s memorial service as the audience fell silent to “Without You.”

Rapp’s final song in his set, “What You Own,” was from Rent, and halfway through the song, Pascal came back on stage and reformed their duet. When they both left, I was disappointed since they only included two songs from Rent, which is possibly why many people were there. While I expected more duets, they included an encore that was well worth it. Pascal came out first and sang “One Song Glory” from Rent and Rapp sang “No Day but Today.”

Lastly, both singers performed an upbeat rendition of Rent’s most popular song: “Seasons of Love,” the perfect way to end the night. Pascal did an amazing job singing the high female vocals as well as the male parts. Meanwhile, Pascal and Rapp’s voices work so well together, as many students had the opportunity to tell them at the post-show meet and greet.

Freshmen Harmony Bailey, Amanda Westerweller and Rachael Brady agreed that meeting the stars was the best part of the night and an unforgettable experience.

The variety of songs they performed was also well received. “The songs they performed were really well done, it was a great variety,” said freshman Marissa Clemente. Briana Lynch, who’s studying at the Parsons Art School in New York, agreed. “It was interesting to hear Broadway songs in different format as well as their covers of non-Broadway songs and original songs.”

Even amateur Rent fans enjoyed the show. Yingst, who had only seen the movie Rent days before the show at Pollak, said, “The show was fantastic! The performers were very involved with the crowd and sounded great. Everything from the light effects to the energy in the room was perfect.”

Overall, the show was a huge hit as Pascal and Rapp work so well together. Their talent was tremendous and the diversity unbelievable. If it were up to me, they could Rent out Pollak Theatre any time.

IMAGE TAKEN from pressroom.pgharts.org