Suppose your two best friends were really talented and you invited them over to sing and tell stories and a few of your other friends found out and showed up to listen and it turned out to be a really fun, intimate evening. That would have been almost exactly like what happened at Strathmore last night!
Adam Pascal took the stage with his gleaming monster bass guitar to huge applause and began teasing the crowd with its reflection from stage lights – in a kind of nanny-nanny-boo-boo moment – like you would expect in somebody’s living room. When he and his band, Larry Edoff (music director and pianist), and drummer Tyger MacNeal broke into The Who’s “Love Reign O’er Me” – you could feel the goose bumps sweep the audience.
Adam shared with us that he was battling a herniated disc in his back. Even in spite of the pain shooting down his left arm he then treated us to the first song by Sir Elton John he ever heard – which changed his life, “Mona Lisas & Mad Hatters.”
At one point Adam kicked and spun the mic stand in a flamboyant Rock-&-Roll celebration and it almost fell and knocked over his monitor to which he commented: “That, was close!” and gave us the universal “Bad Boy” hand signal … . He talked about moving back from California except that his “kids were in school there” and broke into Led Zeppelin’s “Going To California”. These intimate and sincere personal vignettes had those gathered swooning with affection and admiration. He told a little story about being invited to narrate a documentary about Hippos as evidence of the strange things fame can bring you. And yet, as co-star of the Broadway hit Rent, he is still often mistaken to be Anthony Rapp. Continuing along that storyline, he happened to be in Pittsburgh a while later and encountered the same producer who hired him for that role. She revealed to him that it wasn’t until he had arrived at the recording studio and began reading the script that she admitted: “Oh, I meant to hire the other one!”
Adam claimed a kinship with Rock’s lead singer-bass guitar performers and led us into his take on “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” by The Police. Next we enjoyed the song he said he used to audition for the role of Radames in Broadway’s Aida – he played Billy Joel’s “Vienna” followed by The Beatles’ “She’s Leaving Home.” Remembering his youth and dating in the Eighties we heard Journey’s “Faithfully.”
Finally Adam was joined on stage by Anthony during U2’s “Where The Streets Have No Name” during which Adam’s band relinquished their space to Anthony’s band including Daniel Weiss (musical director and keyboards), David Malachowski (guitar), Peter Sachon (cello), Paul Gil (bass), and Jerry Marotta (drums).
Anthony too shared personal stories which just made you feel so close. His first selection was by R.E.M. – “Losing My Religion” followed by a song from Hedwig and the Angry Inch, “Origin of Love.” In a small tribute to “Jukebox Musicals” Anthony offered a perfect cover of “Cant Take My Eyes Off You” by Frankie Valli and The 4 Seasons. Then he shared that he had just flown back from Toronto where he’s been recording episodes for the new Star Trek series and how that experience is just “really cool.” Next was “Falling Slowly” from Once. Again the audience was treated to a hand gesture and admonished not to applaud yet just before the dramatic finish.
Anthony included “Better Be Home Soon” by a “little band from New Zealand” – Crowded House, from Hamilton – “Wait For It,” and “You Don’t Need To Love Me” from If/Then.
Things got really personal as he recounted visits with his mom as she struggled with cancer during his “days off” and he sang a personal creation “Visits To You.” She was able to see him on stage twenty on years ago for opening night of Rent before she passed. Then he shared “Without You,” which he wrote for her memorial service.
As the show drew to a close, Adam rejoined Anthony on stage for Rent’s “What You Own.” Then in a truly intimate gesture Adam stopped the show and called out to the audience to see “if there was someone in the theater named ‘Marni Hall’? ” at which point a woman in the orchestra section jumped up and screamed “Right Here” – pointing wildly to the seated woman next to her! Genuinely surprised and timid – the seated woman raised her hand in acknowledgement. Adam then told us she was his very first girlfriend on Long Island, NY and invited her to stop backstage afterward so they could catch up. What a guy! Before you get too excited, I wandered up to the stage at the show’s conclusion and met Marni – who gave me permission to mention her here. What a sweetheart and such a down-home moment.
We heard Adam sing “One Song Glory” and Anthony followed with “No Day But Today” from Rent before the finale “525,600 minutes,” and a hugely deserved standing ovation!
It dawned on me that all the musical selections had been about love. Little or no mention was made of male or female attraction – just the universal concept of love. And then I had the sense that perhaps like “Truth”, “Love” may actually exist on its own without regard for who feels it or to whom it is directed toward. That was one of those “Ah Ha!” moments I had heard about. And I owe that revelation to two guys who just happened to stop in town and share with me a few of their favorite songs.
Running Time: Six thousand six hundred fifty three seconds (95 minutes), with no intermission.
Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp played for one-night-only on Friday, April 28, 2017, at The Music Center at Strathmore – 5301 Tuckerman Lane, in North Bethesda, MD. For tickets, o future events call (301) 581-5100, or go online.