Anthony Rapp's Without You Off-Broadway
“Anthony Rapp is without you.” Photo by Russ Rowland.

The summary:

At 22, Anthony Rapp had no idea as he rushed in late for an audition that his life was about to change forever.

The show was Jonathan Larson’s LEASE, which would go on to win the 1996 Tony Award for Best Musical and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Larson, who became one of Rapp’s close friends, would not live to see the musical’s success, dying the day before the show’s first aortic dissection preview. The loss, and that of Rapp’s mother a year later, are the subjects of his new musical, Without You by Anthony Rappnow plays Off-Broadway at New World Stages.

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No tea, no shade:

Rapp’s stage performance is based on his 2006 New York Times hit memoir of the same name. More LEASEHeads are familiar with Larson’s tragic passing, though Rapp’s first-hand account will likely stir emotions thanks to the actor’s emotional vulnerability and ability to embody in voice and posture some of the extended cast, such as the series’ original director, Michael Greif.

The momentum behind LEASELarson’s creative aspiration and unique songwriting, which draws from the worlds of musical theatre, pop and rock, also come to life as Rapp relives those early rehearsals when the cast first sang the epiphanic “Seasons of Love”.

Anthony Rapp's Without You Off-Broadway
“Anthony Rapp is without you.” Photo by Russ Rowland.

Coinciding with the huge success of the musical came his mother’s cancer diagnosis and her untimely death at age 55. Along with the AIDS support group described in LEASE, Rapp sought spiritual and emotional support, turning to Cy O’Neal, the co-founder of Friends in Deed, whom Larson had consulted.

Over 90 minutes, Rapp weaves familiar LEASE melodies with his audition song (“Losing My Religion” by REM), original music and other tunes backed by a fantastic five-piece band. Eric Southern’s stage and lighting design combined with David Bengali’s projection design gives scope and direction to Rapp’s storytelling, which, due to the narrative structure, offers little suspense or dramatic conflict.

Yet Rapp is still likeable and still possesses singing prowess that has helped redefine the sound of contemporary musical theatre. Director Steven Maler deftly moves his lone actor around the stage, including on a table à la “La Vie Bohème”, although a bit more carefully for Rapp, 51.

Let’s take a moment:

After LEASEOpening night raves and national media coverage, Rapp and company settled into the reality of an eight-show-a-week performance schedule on Broadway. But just as he started riding the ridge, news broke that his mother had been diagnosed with advanced cancer, which forced him to take time off from the show and travel to his hometown of Joliet, in Illinois. Struggling to accept the inevitable, he contacted O’Neal by phone:

“…I thought I was ready, but I don’t know, she seems to be fading, and I can’t stop crying, you know?” I can’t stop crying. My heart felt like it was breaking out of my chest. It is so hard.”

“Yes. It’s hard. But that’s what hearts do. They break. But if you let them, they open. Your heart opens. You have to let that happen.

“I don’t know if I can do this.”

“Of course you can. It’s already happening. The only way out is through it.”

'Anthony Rapp's Without You' Off-Broadway
“Anthony Rapp is without you.” Photo by Russ Rowland.

The last word:

Beyond his professional benchmark in LEASE and the relationship with his mother, Rapp avoids other aspects of his life.

Trekkies won’t hear of his role as Lt. Cmdr. Paul Stamets in Star Trek: Discovery. Other Broadway appearances in You are a good man, Charlie Brownor If so (opposite Idina Menzel) are also ignored, as are stories of her relationship with longtime fiancé Ken Ithiphol or the recent birth of their son Rai Larson.

“This energy right now that I’m bathing in with my mom, I feel like it’s an osmosis that’s coming to her, I hope. It’s very meaningful,” Rapp said. PEOPLE. “I don’t really feel any grief right now that she’s not here to meet him. I feel like she’s kind of here.

And while their omissions emphasize the show’s title, the exclusions also take away a sense of joy that balances grief and mourning and the more dramatic peaks and valleys of a life fully lived.

Without You by Anthony Rapp plays Off-Broadway at New World Stages through April 30, 2023.

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