Reviewer: Emily Garside
Recorded live at New York’s Feinstein’s/54 Below, Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp reunite for an acoustic mix of Broadway and Rock-pop. Ranging across classic 80s pop – as Rapp quips he’s ‘very much a child of the 80s’ across contemporary and classic Broadway songs with a twist, there’s a variety brought out by their different musical styles, while the recording effectively captures the intimate acoustic evening.
Pascal takes the stage first, surprisingly as he was originally a rock singer, it is musical theatre that dominates his set. Only one classic rock number in Tempted by Squeeze harks back to Pascal’s musical roots. The rest of the set is dedicated musical theatre, with a twist, drawing from shows he has been in but choosing to sing songs he didn’t sing in the show. This results in a haunting, quiet rendition of Maybe This Time from Cabaret and a very different but equally moving Love Will Stand When All Else Fails from Memphis. Moving on from shows he has performed, Pascal continues the unexpected with an acoustic rock twist on Memory from Cats. Pascal’s strong vocals, and pop-rock influences feed into these versions and infuse them with a fresh and unique feel.
Continuing the 80s Rock, Rapp takes to the stage with Losing my Religion by REM- an important song to Rapp, as he notes it was his audition song for Rent. While Rapp’s voice lacks the power and rock edge of Pascal, his voice has a gentle almost folk quality that lends itself well to several Broadway classics. A standout from Rapp is a powerful rendition of The Origin of Love from Hedwig and the Angry Itch which has an urgency and power behind it. While at the other end of the spectrum Rapp delivers a soft and sweet version of Falling Slowly from Once and sings Happiness from You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown with such enthusiasm it’s difficult not to smile on hearing it. While perhaps less musically crafted than Pascal’s set, Rapp’s performance is heartfelt and conveys much of the experienced Broadway performer he’s become.
Entertaining anecdotes are included in the recording, which gives the experience of the complete concert evening, they are perhaps of less interest to the casual listener versus a more dedicated fan. Highlights include Adam Pascal’s telling of early Rent audiences confusing the two of them, with hilarious employment consequences. A particularly moving interlude comes from Rapp recounting how music helped him through the death of his mother during the run of Rent. These interludes while fun, perhaps distract from the music a little.
And finally, it is of course the chance to hear, and have a new recording of, songs from Rent that will be the highlight for many a Rent fan in this recording. And they are indeed highlights. From Rapp’s emotional introduction and performance of Without You to Pascal’s version of One Song Glory which sounds if anything better than the original in this real stripped back form. Performing What You Own together manages to feel wonderfully nostalgic but also fresh, showcasing the strength of the songs as much as the artists. Closing the recording with a duet version of Seasons of Love the album captures the joy of both the singers and the audience, and does what a live recording should in capturing a moment.
Adam Pascal &Anthony Rapp: Acoustically Speaking is a must-listen evening of song for fans of the pair. For the more casual Rent or musical theatre fan, their numbers also serve as an interesting take on some classics.