Adam Pascal has learned to stop rebelling and love the show tune.
Back when he was getting his first taste of stage stardom, as the original Roger in the blockbuster ’90s musical “Rent,” he was still seeing his future trajectory occurring in another segment of show business: rock music. “When we first started doing the show, I used to spit on the stage,” he recalls, sounding contrite at the memory. “The reason I did it was, there was a singer from Metallica who did it.” It was the cavalier rocker in him — Roger, after all, was a rock composer himself — and it became such a habit that stage management had to send him notes, asking him to please stop. He laughs now, self deprecatingly, at the haughtiness of his attitude: “It was such a juvenile, stupid thing to do.”
Pascal, now 46, married and living in Los Angeles with his wife, Cybele, and 13- and 15-year-old sons, has learned a lot since then about himself and where talent and opportunity can take him. And that has meant, in large measure, musical theater rather than the music industry. Seven times over the years he has appeared on Broadway, creating roles in “Rent,” the musical “Aida” and the musical spoof “Disaster!” and replacing other actors in shows like “Cabaret” and “Memphis.”
“I grew up in rock bands and playing rock music,” he says by telephone from Tampa, where he’s touring in the national road company of the broad musical comedy, “Something Rotten!” “But if you keep doing the same thing, it gets boring. But by the time I did ‘Cabaret,’ I found there was something more in musical theater that I wanted to keep pursuing. Doing it became a dream come true for a dream I never knew I had.”
He’ll get to explore yet another facet of the dream this Sunday at Strathmore Music Center in Bethesda, where he’ll join more than 250 chorus members and musicians from the Young Artists of America and other area youth groups in a world-premiere concert, “The Circle of Life: The Songs of Tim Rice in Concert.” Conceived and directed by Hugh Wooldridge, the event will showcase lyricist Rice’s contributions to the musicals he’s written with the likes of Elton John and Andrew Lloyd Webber: among them, “The Lion King,” “Evita,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “Aida.”
Pascal became friends with Rice while performing in the original production of “Aida” on Broadway, and then worked with him again last year, in a concert version of “Chess,” a musical Rice wrote with Abba’s Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus. “Tim has a real rock-and-roll spirit and really brings that energy into his lyric writing, so we hit it off and remained friendly,” the actor says, adding that he’ll sing two songs from “Chess”: “One Night in Bangkok” and “Pity the Child,” along with “Heaven on Their Minds” from “Jesus Christ Superstar,” an early Rice-Lloyd Webber collaboration, and “Elaborate Lives” from “Aida.”
Life after “Rent” has meant branching out into other ventures: concert gigs, including tours with his onetime “Rent” co-star, Anthony Rapp; conducting master classes in auditioning for musical theater, and even selling a line of health foods. A few years ago, he and his wife founded Cybele’s Free to Eat, which started with gluten-free cookies and now is expanding into what he describes as “high protein, vegetable-infused, gluten-free pasta.” Pascal may only be featured in one venue at a time, but the couple’s products are in 3,500 stores nationwide.
The Circle of Life: The Songs of Tim Rice in Concert. Sunday at 4 p.m. Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. Visit strathmore.org or call 301-581-5100. $18-$44.