Obie-winning star of the stage and screen Anthony Rapp is not only an accomplished actor, he’s also a singer and writer, whose talent and sensitivity come shining through in everything he does. From his celebrated Broadway roles in Rent, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, If/Then, and Six Degrees of Separation, to his recurrent part, beginning in 2016, on the CBS All Access TV series Star Trek: Discovery (as the show’s first openly gay character, Lieutenant Commander Paul Stamets), Rapp has been a very visible presence in significant contemporary work that is sure to be remembered beyond Pop artist Andy Warhol’s fleeting view of fame that endures a mere fifteen minutes.
In addition to his accomplished performances, Rapp released his first full-length solo CD Look Around in 2000, and, in 2006, published a memoir about Rent and his relationship with his mother, taken by cancer in 1997, entitled Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and the Musical Rent. The following year he developed a one-man stage show with music based on the book, a recording of which was later issued by PS Classics.
This week, on Sunday, August 22, the ever-busy Rapp performed the eponymous role in a staged reading of Brent Askari’s Andy Warhol in Iran at the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. And next week, August 29–30, he returns to Feinstein’s/54 Below (where he and Rent co-star Adam Pascal celebrated 20 years of friendship with their concert and CD recording Acoustically Speaking) for Anthony Rapp: Unplugged – an evening of stories and music, with musical director Dan Weiss, featuring some of the great songs that have inspired him, including iconic numbers from Rent.
I spoke remotely with Anthony between gigs, to get a preview of his upcoming show and to get to know a little more about him.
- What do you love about Feinstein’s/54 Below?
Anthony: I love how intimate it is, how connected I feel to the audience, and the incredibly supportive atmosphere the audience brings with them.
- Do you have a favorite drink or menu item there?
I think their fries are excellent.
- What three things do you always keep in your refrigerator?
Kombucha, organic Gala apples, and non-dairy yogurt.
- Is there one song in your upcoming concert that you most look forward to performing?
I really love so many, and we’re bringing a couple of new songs to see how they’re received, so I don’t want to give anything away.
- Are you more like Mark Cohen (from Rent), Charlie Brown, or Andy Warhol in real life?
I’m probably the most like Mark Cohen, or at least I was in my younger time, but I think I share the most qualities with him.
- If you had a comic strip dog for a pet, what would you name it?
Finster. No reason why, it just came into my brain!
- Has there been one unsurpassed highlight in your career to date?
It’s both personal and professional. The opening night performance of Rent was the last time my Mom could come to see me, so that will forever be unsurpassed.
- Did you sense at the time you auditioned that Rent would become the smash hit that defined a generation?
No. I thought it was very interesting and special, but none of us could have known what a phenomenon it would be, because it was about things that we thought at the time would not have been that popular.
- What’s the most unforgettable reaction you’ve ever gotten from an audience member?
It’s not just one person, but walking out on stage on opening night of Rent, we were already a hit, and the audience gave us a standing ovation before the show even started, for I don’t know how long. It was emotional, physical, spiritual – incredible.
- What three words would you use to describe yourself?
Authentic, passionate, nerdy – I think nerdy is a good thing.
- What three qualities are the most important for an actor?
Authenticity, flexibility, openness.
- What does performing offer you personally?
Wow, it’s very joyful for me and it’s an opportunity to hold a mirror up to the human condition, and perhaps make a difference.
- What do the arts offer to society in general?
Part of it is the same. It’s a mirror held up that can help us process, heal, enlighten, change people’s minds, it’s documentation of our history, it’s an escape, and many, many, many things.
- How do you measure a year like the past one?
I measure it in connection, even when we couldn’t be in the same place physically connected.
- What do you love most about being back performing live and in person?
I love that only the people in the room at that time on that day can experience it. Even if it’s documented or recorded, being there only lives in the memory of the people who were present.
Thanks, Anthony, for finding time in your active schedule to give our readers some quick insights into your career, your new show at 54 Below, and who you are beyond the stage.
Anthony Rapp: Unplugged plays August 29-30, at Feinstein’s/54 Below, 254 West 54th Street, cellar, NYC. For tickets (priced at $45-90, with an addition $25 per person food and beverage minimum), call (646) 476-3551, or go online. All audience members will be required to show proof of vaccination before entering the club.