NYMF Review #1: Without You


                                  ANTHONY RAPP
Imma gonna sing a Rent song!

AUDIENCE
Yaaaaaaay!

ANTHONY RAPP
Annnnddddd.....Now imma gonna sing a not Rent song!

AUDIENCE
Booooooo!

ANTHONY RAPP
Annnnddddd.....Now imma gonna sing a Rent song again!

AUDIENCE
Yaaaaaaay!

ANTHONY RAPP
Annnnddddd.....Now imma gonna sing a not Rent song.

AUDIENCE
Booooooo!

ANTHONY RAPP
Annnnddddd.....


I was expecting to feel the same about "Without You", Anthony Rapp's one-man show, as I did about "Without You", Anthony Rapp's memoir.  The novel begins as an interesting and fun insider's look into Rent's early days, and while it has its ups and downs, at some point towards the end it actually became a difficult read through an admittingly real recollection of the events leading up to his mother's death.  Accurate, heartfelt, but a strong change in tone.  When I heard that Rapp was turning it into a one-man show, I hoped that he could do what the Rent movie didn't: take a beautiful, heartfelt-but-slightly-muddled piece of art and address its flaws through its transformation into a new medium.

Thankfully, Rapp's one-man show does exactly that.  By limiting himself to a tight 90 minute timeframe, Rapp guides us through the genesis of Rent, the sudden death of its creator Jonathan Larson, and the passing away of Rapp's mother in a way that strengthens parallels between the two deaths and shows how they are intertwined in the same story, ending with the use of Larson's own music to explore Rapp's feeling of loss of his mother.  Music--and an emphasis on addressing pain by getting through instead of around it-- brings the work into a cohesive structure that is strong enough as a narrative that it could very well be licensed by other solo (or even group) performers for future productions.  Not that Rapp's performance isn't wonderful; he has put his heart, soul, and songwriting talents into this work, the latter to co-collaborate on some new songs to compliment the Jonathan Larson tunes.  Sometimes the new numbers work brilliantly, sometimes not.  It doesn't matter, however: given the quality of the show and the pedigree of the performer, expect to see this sold out run continue its life at another venue soon.

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