Writer: Anthony Rapp
Reviewer: John Roberts
“Will I lose my dignity, will someone care?” a haunting line from Jonathan Larson’s touching and landscape-changing musical RENT, and the line that beautifully underscores Anthony Rapp’s, painfully honest, emotively raw and impassioned performance in this biographical production.
Charting the parallels between his experiences and friendship with Jonathan Larson as the production of RENT came to the stage over 15 years ago and the personal problems he faced with his mother dying of cancer, using excerpts from his biography of the same title with songs from RENT and REM and original compositions, Rapp engages the audience from the off. He has an instantly likeable persona and while the delivery of the material is slick and precise, you never feel that any of the emotion is forced, here is a man clearly using the production as his own catharsis, a personal elegy to two people who so deeply touched and moulded his life.
It is hard not to be emotionally moved throughout this 75-minute rollercoaster as we laugh, cry (there really wasn’t a dry eye in the auditorium) and get angry alongside Rapp, his renditions of some of the most iconic songs from his life are constructed and orchestrated with flair and delivered with style and confidence from his onstage five piece band.
Rapp has the ability to story tell through song like an illustrator does through images and that is worth the ticket price alone. Theatregoers in London have a wonderful opportunity to see this production at the Menier Chocolate Factory next month, but I urge any fans of musical theatre to get along to Underbelly and see this highly personal production before it is too late.