No Day But Today

Sometimes I have to make myself very strict rules, when it comes to my media consumption. It’s usually for my own good, sometimes it’s completely arbitrary and it’s often for a reason that would seem nonsensical to an outsider.

A big one, that some people might think is very strange, started a few years ago. “I’m not ever going to encounter Rent on purpose.”

I won’t listen to it.

I won’t watch the movie. (Not that I’d want to, ugh, it’s so awful)

I won’t watch the filmed closing night performance. (Much better than the movie and still includes Tracy Thoms’s transcendent Joanne. With JV Elphaba Eden Espinosa as Maureen no less!)

This rule is in place for a few reasons. It keeps me from swirling down a bizarre hole of nostalgia, disappointment and obsession. It keeps me from poking holes in a piece of art that meant a lot to me once, means less to me now and which I know is DEEPLY, DEEPLY flawed. And mostly, it keeps me from boring the people around me with conversation about Rent. Because, and I mean this kindly, most normal humans ran out of things to say about Rent in either 1998, or when they turned 19. Whichever came first.

I could talk about Rent forever. I could talk about the original cast and how I still clap with raucous joy every time I see any of them in anything. (Remember on Smash when Daphne Ruben Vega and Jesse L. Martin were on it?) I could talk about how the replacement casts shaped Broadway talent for a generation and are still shaping it in certain ways. (Not least of all because of Hamilton and Lin-Manuel’s admitted affection for the show and it’s style.) I could talk about Jonathan Larson, the stranger than fiction circumstances of his death, the good work done by his family in his name, and speculate about what theater would look like if he’d lived. (My guess? A lot fewer revivals & movie adaptations. A lot more rock operas about gay people.)

Anyway, this is all by way of saying that on Friday, I half broke the rule. I was listening to my Spotify “Weekly Discovery Playlist” and the first track off of Anthony Rapp’s Without You: A Musical Memoir, his recreation of his audition for Rent came on. I then spent my lunch hour listening through Without You, something I’ve been meaning to do for ages, since the book Without You is one of my all time favorite memoirs. (It’s about his mom dying as much as it’s about Rent and it.is.stunning.) And as Anthony recreated his memories of the show, my own came rushing back and I knew that I needed to at the very least listen to the OBC again.

Since I had a 2 hour drive to Juli’s that night, I had the perfect opportunity.

It’s funny, the things that come back to you with music. Seeing Rent for the first time with my brother. Parking lot and diner renditions of “La Vie Boheme,” with my summer stock friends after rehearsals. Learning the alto line to “Seasons of Love” with at least 3 different choir directors. Screaming with joy as my name got called for the front lottery when Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp were back in the show for a few weeks. My friend Ali and I dressing in our bohemian best to go see the movie on opening night. (Cannot reiterate it enough, DO NOT WATCH THE MOVIE. Do however, listen to the movie versions of “Seasons of Love,” “Out Tonight,” and “I’ll Cover You (Reprise)” Jesse Martin, Tracy Thoms and Rosario Dawson make those songs worthwhile.)

And then there’s the show and the album itself. The beauty of the music, the emotions of the story, and the urgency and earnestness of the whole thing. Looking at it as an adult, “One Song Glory,” and both versions of “I’ll Cover You,” feel much more at the heart of the whole thing than “La Vie Boheme” and “Seasons,” though as an adult, I’ve also come around on “Seasons of Love,” which while overused and misused as it has been, is just a beautifully composed choral number and achingly melancholy in a way that a teenager could never in a hundred years understand.

But there’s also an oddness to the show now. It was written when Idina Menzel’s wailing belt was trangressive and edgy, when thinking about Angel’s gender identity was taboo and confusing, when the New York I know didn’t exist, and gentrification wasn’t yet a foregone conclusion. That gives it a time capsule quality that makes it hard to evaluate outside of it’s moment.

Idina’s probably the most interesting case of the original cast. Rent made her a star theatrically, and Wicked cemented it, and while I love that I now live in a world where she and Lin-Manuel Miranda are household names, it’s weird, and half the time when people talk about Frozen, I really really want them to listen to “Over The Moon.” Not just because making people listen to “Over The Moon” out of context is hilarious, but because the image of Elsa shouting, “NOT IN MY BACKYARD UTENSILS GO BACK TO CHINA!” breaks a lot of people’s brains. The rest of the casts’ evolution makes more sense. Adam Pascal is still a theater guy, Anthony Rapp and Daphne Ruben Vega became working character actors, who it is always a joy to see. Jesse Martin became everyone’s favorite cop/dad (Sometimes both!). Taye Diggs was swallowed into Shondaland. (I actually think Taye should be a much bigger star than he is, but you know…whatever.) But Idina as Disney Supernova still baffling to me, in a very good way.

As you can see, I could keep babbling for ages about this. Which is why I have the don’t listen to Rent rule.

 

Giselle, Aida, Amneris, and Ignored Princesses

So, Cinderella and my cousin and his wife’s Disney World vacation pictures haunting my facebook (Hi Sean and Christie! Looks like you guys were having a blast. I’m jealous!) have prompted a Disney binge. You’ll recall that the last one brought up songs that I felt were under appreciated, but this one led to something else.

Why isn’t Giselle from Enchanted counted among the “Disney Princesses?” We all know there are female characters excluded for logical reasons. (Alice & Wendy because of their preteen status, Tinkerbell because she’s a fairy, Esmerelda because her movie is terrible etc.) But then there’s Giselle.

Giselle is engaged to a prince, runs around in a ballgown, sings her feelings and well, is just generally everything a Disney Princess should be.

Is it just because she’s live action for most of her time? I’m not sure why Enchanted seems to have been so quickly forgotten? (Or has it been? I’m not really ever around children…)

The decision to keep Giselle out the clique seems inexplicable from an official standpoint and from a fan perspective I really don’t understand it. I’ve never seen her cosplayed, and no one talks about her, despite the fact that Amy Adams did really incredible work with the character and “That’s How You Know,” is an amazing song and an even more amazing number. Plus she gets to choose between Patrick Dempsey and James Marsden and how great is that?

Oh, and Idina Menzel plays her romantic rival, because the universe is awesome.

But there are two other Disney Princesses, that I feel like people should talk about more, and not surprisingly, they come from Broadway.

Mary and I often talk about how we wish more people would talk about Aida and Amneris when discussing Disney Princesses as Aida was in fact managed by Disney Theatrical, and the score was written by Disney sanctioned (and kind of perfect) writing team Sirs Elton John and Tim Rice. And they’re both Princesses, hell, by the end Amneris is the ruler of Egypt and ushers in a golden age, or whatever.

And Aida dies for love, which, is kind of lame, when you think about it, but it’s for Adam Pascal, so I forgive it.

Never Forget

Never Forget

So I guess, I’m feeling like my live action ladies need to get some love from the Disney fandom. Also more people should talk about Aida because it’s really pretty great, for a self indulgent Broadway Pop love story. Which you know I love more than just about anything.

Lies Musical Theatre Told Me Part 4: Light My Candle

It’s the triumphant return of Lies Musical Theatre Told Me!

This lie is a little bit different than the others, like the Patti Lupone one, it’s a culture thing, and it’s also the most fangirly of all of them:

Adam Pascal is a major heartthrob

You know who Adam Pascal is even if you don’t know who Adam Pascal is. Chances are you’ve seen School of Rock. You know the douchebag who kicks Jack Black out of his band in the beginning and then beats the kids at Battle of The Bands at the end? That’s Adam.

Of course if you’re a theatre geek in your 20’s, and you are attracted to men, you know more about Adam. You know that he is the angry sensitive bohemian HIV positive ex heroin addict singer songwriter we all wanted to fix. You know know that he’s the hard hearted Egyptian soldier/explorer who ends up choosing love over everything, even his life. He’s the selfish prick who alienates the woman he loves because of his own prejudices.

Also, if you’re anything like me, my sister and most of my friends you melt everytime you hear him hit the high notes.

You know the moments I’m talking about, when Adam’s voice goes up in it’s gorgeous gravelly tones and it’s raw and powerful.

“Let it be boys!”

“And why did I tell her this? A stranger I just met? I woman who I hardly know at all and will forget!”

“Go away! Just get out! Be someone else’s parasite!”

I’ve been very lucky, in that I’ve seen Adam in his two most iconic roles, I saw him as Radames in Aida when he went back to close the show. It was amazing. I still remember sitting in the balcony with my friend Ali, my sister Mary and Ali’s sister Jess, and all four of us literally screaming like Beatles fans when he took off his shirt and ordered Aida to bathe  him.

Also later, this happens. It's wonderful

Also later, this happens. It’s wonderful

My brother was also there. He did not squeal, but he did make fun of us a lot. So that’s almost the same.

Then I saw him as Roger, when for six glorious weeks he and Anthony Rapp (the original Mark) went back to Rent on Broadway. If you’re the kind of person who’s attracted to singers, you haven’t known what that really means until you’ve watched these two men wail out “What You Own” or listened to Adam come in on “Another Day.” It’s phenomenal.

Beautiful, Beautiful Angst!

Beautiful, Beautiful Angst!

It was incredible. I was even more in love.

I also wanted him to light my candle, if you know what I’m saying. (I had to, I’m sorry, it’s a bad joke. I couldn’t come up with anything regarding having the best ass below 14th street or handcuffs, I tried.)

Then came Chess. I’d loved the music from Chess for a long time. Then one day, I stumbled upon a full YouTube video of a London concert version starring Idina Menzel, Josh Groban and Adam Pascal! It was wonderful, I watched it like a million times. Adam is sexy as hell and can sing like a mofo, but he’s not the best actor, generally his performance range from angry to sad to slightly amused. Next to Josh Groban, he looked like Laurence Olivier, and the contrasting tones of their voices were incredible. (Josh’s soaring opera vocals clash beautifully with Adam’s rough rock and roll sounds.)

Adam in a white suit! WHITE SUIT!

Adam in a white suit! Don’t you just melt?

I didn’t see him in Memphis and I still hate myself for it. A few weeks ago, Mary and I were talking about how she wants to watch Rent with her boyfriend (He also played Roger in the movie version), and somehow the entire conversation devolved in to us talking about how sexy he was.

Mary insists she doesn’t “squee” but I was there that night we saw Aida, there was definite squeeing happening. It was my first real full on fangirl moment.

When I reached out to friends to see if they had any Adam stories to share, my friend Matt answered with simply, “I met him sophomore year. We bro’ed out. I shit you not.” You understand, how important that caveat is? Also, Matt just became like, ten times more attractive to me. (Just kidding, kind of…)

The best thing, though, from a theatre geek perspective, is that Adam is our guy. He’s never really gone mainstream, so we’ve never had to share him. The mainstream took and shattered our other heart throbs, poor Matt Morrison became the biggest joke of the joke that is Glee, Patrick Wilson has been knocking on the mainstream door for so long that you can’t help but pity him. But not Adam Pascal. Adam is ours, even if most of the world doesn’t know who he is.

So he’s not a major heartthrob, that was a lie that musical theatre told us. But he’s our heartthrob, and that’s the most important part.