WITHOUT YOU, Anthony Rapp's moving, cathartic and rewarding solo piece about "love, loss and what I sang". Directed by Steve Maler (who directed Rapp in the title role in the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company's 2002 production of HENRY V, in the free Shakespeare On The Common series), this one-week engagement follows performances in Pittsburgh (2008) and at the New York Musical Theater Festival (2010), and precedes a run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August followed by a London premiere.
Initially a show about his experience playing Mark, the career defining, and changing, role in Jonathon Larson's Pulitzer Prize winning "rock opera" RENT, it's also about his relationship with, and the loss of, Jonathon Larson, who died suddenly of an aortic dissection, believed to have been caused by undiagnosed Marfan syndrome, in the early morning on January 25, 1996, the day before RENT's Off-Broadway opening. But it is also the story of the love and loss of his Mother who died after a long and debilitating cancer illness that also coincided with the life of that musical. Through songs from RENT, as well as original music by Rapp and his collaborators (there was no program on Tuesday night), and his personal narrative, Rapp shares his life and his story, intertwining his midtown out-of-work barrista days with the audition that led to playing Mark, who captured a generation "living with, not dying from disease". His anecdotes become the throughline, from first audition to the sing-through tribute, onstage at New York Theater Workshop's Off-Broadway theater, attended by Larson's family and friends just days after his sudden death.
On Tuesday night, the full house was silent through the most moving final sections, including a recreation of Rapp's performance of SEASONS OF LOVE at the sing-through tribute to Larson, and this show's title song, the ballad WITHOUT YOU, at his Mother's memorial.