Last night, Rent-heads — those forever-young types who live and die by the now-iconic, eleven-years-running Broadway show — packed Ars Nova to see Anthony Rapp, Rent's original Mark, perform his new one-man show. Titled Without You, after both the Rent song and Rapp's memoir, the show tells Rapp's story of becoming a mid-nineties Broadway sensation while grieving the deaths of his mother and Rent creator Jonathan Larson. Backed by a rock band and belting songs from Rent and of his own creation, Rapp, now 37, musically re-created the first time the cast rehearsed "Seasons of Love" — and tweaked Larson's saintly image when he recalled the composer pompously telling a friend, on the eve of Rent's opening, "I'm the future of musical theater."
Mostly, though, Rapp narrated how the lessons of Rent — live in the moment, express love and grief freely — helped him cope with his mother's long illness from cancer and her death in 1997, a year after the show hit Broadway. Impressively, he accomplished this with no cheese factor, even when doing goofy impressions of Rent director Michael Greif and of Daphne Rubin-Vega, the show's original Mimi. After his show, Rapp, who says he doesn't yet know when he'll perform the piece again, shared the top three items on his 2008 agenda: (1) assisting Greif in the direction of Next to Normal, a new musical opening at Second Stage in February, (2) adapting to being freshly single and not jumping into another relationship right away, and (3) "getting laid, in a safe and responsible manner, as often as possible." Measure your life in love, indeed. —Tim Murphy