“I love being in front of a big rock band ... and I just love singing with Adam. ... Our voices are really different, but they blend really well.” —Anthony Rapp, who played Mark in the original Broadway production of “Rent”
Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal met 16 years ago, when Rapp was best known for his roles in “Dazed and Confused” and “Adventures in Babysitting” and Pascal was trying to make it as a musician, playing gigs in bars all over New York City. Then they were cast in Jonathan Larson’s “Rent,” the play-turned-anthem for a generation of broke, starving artists in New York City (and for the middle-class, well-fed suburbanites who loved them). The rest is, well, you know: 5,124 Broadway performances in 12 years that introduced America to a slew of soon-to-be-uber-famous faces, Rapp and Pascal among them.
Since then, both reprised their roles in the “Rent” national tour and the 2005 film version. They have starred in other Broadway productions: Pascal in“Aida,” “Cabaret” and “Memphis”; Rapp as the titular football-misser in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Now Pascal, 41, is married with two sons, and Rapp, 40, has a partner of three years. The original Mark and Roger are touring together, performing new arrangements of “Rent” hits along with Broadway covers and their own solo work. They’ll be at the Birchmere in Alexandria on Sunday.
Pascal: When I first left “Rent,” I started doing my own rock band thing again. . . . The last thing I wanted to do was to play a “Rent” song. But years go by and you learn that the audience wants to hear that, and you know that you’d only be spiting the audience not to do that.
Rapp: I never, never ever get sick of [singing songs from “Rent”].
Pascal: Everyone always wants to hear “Seasons of Love.”
Rapp: “What You Own” is my favorite. I love being in front of a big rock band . . . and I just love singing with Adam. . . . Our voices are really different, but they blend really well.
Pascal: I had no expectation [of “Rent’s” success]. I thought: This is going to be interesting and hopefully fun. I’ve never done anything like this before. . . . I was super excited, but I certainly didn’t think it would go longer than 12 weeks.
Rapp: Jonathan Larson hosted what we called a “peasants’ feast,” a potluck dinner at his apartment the night before rehearsals. He rushed up to me and was like, “You have to meet Adam; he’s never done anything onstage before, but he’s amazing.” And I thought, “Great, he’s never done anything onstage before.” And I knew they’d worked really hard to find a Roger. And Adam — I am not exaggerating — he had overalls on and a green sweatshirt with this medieval lace-up collar. Like one of Robin Hood’s merry men. I was like, “This is Roger?” But then in rehearsals, I was hanging around while he was singing “One Song Glory” and I just thought: “Oh my God.”
Pascal: I’d say by the end of the first rehearsal, Jesse [L. Martin, who played Tom Collins], Daphne [Rubin-Vega, who played Mimi], me, we all went out that night and had drinks. The 15 of us became friends. . . . Anthony, Jessie and I shared a dressing room. We had a lot of laughs up there. . . . We weren’t professionals at that time. . . . We were brand new at this. It was wild. None of us knew how to take care of ourselves. We partied like rock stars.
Rapp, upon being told that Pascal said the cast “partied like rock stars”: I wasn’t! I’m too much of a goody-two-shoes. Was everybody else?
Sunday at the Birchmere Music Hall, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. Go to www.birchmere.com or call 703-549-7500.