I feel compelled to write today because I saw this extraordinarily moving show performed live by Anthony Rapp off Broadway at the New World Stages Theater, just on 50th St, which is really smack dab in the theater district, although situated between 8th and 9th Avenues. And the Stage Door is a block away too, which was convenient 4 me and another fan, Kevin, today, from Rapp’s hometown of Joliet, IL, also a RENT-head. That’s what we call these fanatical lovers of the Pulitzer Prize and Tony winning musical RENT, which premiered on Broadway in early 1996, and opened that April. I was one of the 1st members of that audience, back in April 1996, w a $36 orchestra seat, along w my dear mama, and 2 high school buddies, Maria Lyrist & John Lynch, also w us, to see that spectacular show. I even have the original stubs to prove my price, seat, and who went, as I have been scrapbooking my entire life since age 11, but we r sticking w this RENT theme here, because again I was blown away today! I shook, sang silently, as I am tone deaf, and don’t inflict my voice on the listening audience…as Anthony deftly told and sang a tale of his life, to date, since arriving in NY, and getting cast as Mark Cohen in RENT, when it was at the Public Theater, & NY Theater Workshop preceding the Broadway run. He was only 22 yrs old then, fresh faced, singing his lungs out w gusto and verve. And he had the opportunity to get the part via impressing the playwright composer Jonathan Larson who became his friend, after some performing on the stage.
Without You is a deeply personal trek of the man Anthony Rapp became with his family of origin, including an encouraging, beloved single mother, mostly, as the parents had divorced…and the life she led in Joliet IL, w Anthony pursuing his musical career in NY, and getting some breaks, particularly RENT, which turned out to be life changing for Rapp. Rapp’s mother battled cancer over some number of years, and eventually succumbed to it, but not before seeing him on stage in NY singing the Mark character in RENT, which had to be so fulfilling for Anthony. To see your child perform to standing ovations on Broadway has to be some major prideful maternal moment. And the original cast was in fact all brilliant as well, many going on to successful careers in theater and movies, TV. I was there then, and even today, my tears were summoned forth in that theater, yet again, happy tears to see my idol Anthony Rapp, still belting his voice and his emotions out to the audience, and we clapped and we sang (albeit me singing silently, mouthing it), and still we were given a piece of a consequential person’s life…on stage, in a limited engagement, it runs only until late April 2023.
Anthony works on a show I watch also: Star Trek Discovery, which streams either 10 or 13 episodes per season on Paramount Plus network. He is fantastic in his role as the Chief Engineer Lt. Paul Stamets, who has a good brain and even better ethics to lead the Discovery ship in the 32nd Century that they now inhabit on that series. But he moves me then and now, always, as he has hit a nerve w me, w his lyrical expressions of emotions…and his sheer talent. He is presently 51 yrs old, has a son, and is engaged to a man, and he talks about his homosexuality w frankness in the show as well, including his mother’s stance on it, and how she accepted it. Anthony wrote his memoir first, and was published in 2006, and the show has been received to mixed reviews in a bunch of international and domestic locations before it came here to NYC. But his talent is undeniable, and we r the richer for having been on this Earth w a talent such as his is, simultaneously sharing time and space together.
I got to chat w him a few times too, including today, because I went outside to stand by the Stage Door, just me and another single fan, Kevin, who had gone to the performance too. And we got some candid shots w Anthony. I had seen him sing last year aboard the Star Trek Cruise V, and got his pic and autograph then too, on that cruise, late February 2022. U guys know fan comes from fanatic, right? But I am just extolling his praises, as I admire these actors and singers. I am not a fanatic, just a fan. I recommend u catch Without You, even if it is heavy subject matter, to look at a life, and then to lose it, of someone dear. But we achieve immortality through our work, as Jonathan Larson did, even tho he died at 10 days short of age 36, from a burst aortic aneurysm. He had fulfilled his time on Earth, and it was time to go, tho to the detriment of so many who wish he had lived as long as Stephen Sondheim did. But we have not it within ourselves to deign to dictate to the Creator how long we should live, as we r His creatures, not our own.
But this was a fine day in my life, today, and I am radiating happiness for having witnessed this show! 525,600 minutes, how do u measure a life? Measure it in love, not minutes… Yup, always a RENT-head, me.