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By Andy Argyrakis
One on one with Anthony Rapp on his return to "Rent"
"One on One"
April 7, 2009
For over twenty years, actor Anthony Rapp has split his time between Hollywood heavy hitters and Broadway blockbusters. However, his signature role is unquestionably originating the part of Mark Cohen in "Rent" on stage in 1996 and the silver screen in 2005. These days, he's reprising that all time favorite role in a Broadway tour of the musical starring several of his original cast members, including Adam Pascal and Gwen Stewart.
"It's the gift that keeps on giving, which I know sounds like a cliché, but it keeps coming back into my life in the most incredible and surprising ways," reflects Rapp, who's currently at home in Chicago through Sunday, April 12 at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre. "I never expect the opportunity to return and I feel very fortunate, especially in tough times with so many struggling. But I will say our show is actually providing inspiration and comfort."
The premise of "Rent" revolves around several friends pursuing a variety of artistic disciplines in New York circa the mid-1990s, but always struggling to make ends meet. Outside offinancial problems, the neighbors face eviction from their apartment complex when a wealthy investor steps into the picture, alongside even more serious issues of AIDS and intolerance.
"I think it tells the truth and it cuts to the heart of so many profound aspects of human experience unlike many musicals, which cover more frivolous topics" suggests the 37-year-old star. "Plus the music cuts through hearts and souls in a way that words cannot alone, just like all great music. There are some details of the piece that are somewhat specific of the time period, like the East Village in New York going through many changes and the face of AIDS treatments improving, but the themes and issues we're dealing with in the show are timeless."
Though "Rent" is at the top of the list when it comes to Rapp's career memories, he's also particularly fond of several other acting roles split between the stage and screen. He laughs at his ability to switch between the conservative and historical "Henry V" on Broadway to the absolutely outrageous "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," while also reveling in major movie appearances like "Adventures In Babysitting" and "Dazed and Confused." "As proud as I am of all those roles, ÔRent' will always be the crowning achievement," he verifies. "It's still the head of the table."
Rapp is also quick to credit his late mother for the Midwestern work ethic she instilled upon him and his siblings when growing up under less than simple circumstances. "My mom was a single mother who a nurse that raised my brother, my sister and my self," he recalls. "Most of my early life was spent in small apartments that were not in the greatest parts of town and it was really a struggle to make ends meet, but she always did and I have no complaints. In fact, the older I get, the more I realize what an amazing job she did! Now I'm her age when she was raising us and I cannot imagine trying to do that right now, which makes her efforts even more remarkable and makes me all the more thankful of her constant support and encouragement."
"Rent" runs through Sunday, April 12 at Chicago's Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre. For additional information, log onto www.broadwayinchicago.com or www.SiteForRent.com.