The ‘Rent’ star is on a roll, including roles in a Marvel musical phenomenon and ‘tick, tick … Boom!’
BY SHARON EBERSON
When Adam Pascal was asked to take part in a secret project and sang all the parts for composer Marc Shaiman, he told his children that dad was going to be a Marvel superhero.
“I thought I was going to be Captain America,” he said by phone from Boston, where he was headlining the national tour of Pretty Woman the Musical, on the way to Pittsburgh.
It turned out that Pascal isn’t Cap in the fictional Rogers the Musical numbers that surprised and delighted most viewers of the Disney+ Hawkeye series. But it is his distinctive voice as “Lead New Yorker #1” that rises above the assembled Avenger
Of course, that powerful rock tenor is most associated with a Roger, not a Rogers – the troubled rocker in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Rent.
It’s fair to say that Roger follows Pascal like a shadow wherever he goes, but he has graced a steady string of leading man roles on Broadway and on the road in the intervening 25 years.
He has played such diverse parts as the Emcee in Cabaret, an Egyptian warrior in Aida and Chicago’s “Billy Flynn,” among others. Pretty Woman brings Pascal back to Pittsburgh Feb. 1-6, having stepped in to play Edward Lewis on Broadway before the current tour. He was last seen strutting the Benedum Stage as the narcissistic rock-star version of Shakespeare in Something Rotten!
Despite his many roles, Pascal acknowledges that buttoned-down CEO Edward – whose raison d’etre is buying and liquidating companies until he meets a “pretty woman” – might seem to be an unexpected choice.
That’s the Richard Gere role in the iconic Garry Marshall rom-com that skyrocketed Julia Roberts to stardom.
For Pascal, the role fits into his plans like one of Edward’s impeccably tailored suits.
“Quite frankly, I have tried to take roles throughout my career that fill that area where people haven’t seen me,” he said. “I want people to be surprised. I’m forever connected to ‘Rent,’ of course, but that was 25 years ago. It’s very important to me to distinguish myself, so I am not only that rock and roll Broadway guy, and I think that’s why I’ve had the career I’ve had”
In the Roberts’ role of Vivian, the sex worker with big dreams, is Olivia Valli. If that name sounds familiar, it should be. She is Frank Valli’s granddaughter, and on Broadway, she played her own grandmother in the Four Seasons musical Jersey Boys. Pittsburgher and Carnegie Mellon alum Matthew Stocke plays Edward’s smarmy sidekick, Phillip Stuckey, the Jason Alexander role in the movie.
About now feels like the right time for a musical with the popular pedigree of Pretty Woman to come in and put a warm blanket over the sub-zero wintry weather. It also promises to be especially inviting for those people who love the movie and may cozy up to something familiar, and with the possibility of a happily-ever-after.
The book stays close to the movie, right down to Vivian’s spectacular red dress. One of Pascal’s favorite scenes is when Edward takes Vivian to her first opera.
“I love that whole scene and the great song, ‘You and I,’ intertwined with La Traviata. It’s such a great moment and so beautifully executed – the staging, the lighting, I love everything about it.”
The late Garry Marshall had been working on bringing his 1990 hit film to Broadway up until his death in 2016. He is credited as co-writer of the libretto, along with J.F. Lawton, who also wrote the screenplay. The songs are by pop star Bryan Adams (Run to You; Summer of 69) and his composing partner Jim Vallance.
Pascal says the musical will move not just fans of the movie but newcomers to Edward and Vivian’s love story.
“The biggest difference is the score by Bryan Adams, a great pop-rock songwriter. It has all these great moments told musically, and that’s what really sets it apart.”
The show ran on Broadway for a year, with Pascal stepping in during the run. He said between the closing in August 2019, and the start of the tour, director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots) had a chance to work on the show and smoothed out some of its edges making it more appealing.
“There are subtle differences – little edits, things streamlined – but the biggest difference, especially for myself and Olivia Valli and Kyle Taylor Parker, who plays Happy Man, is the tone we bring to the show. It’s much brighter and funnier and more fun. I think there was a darker tone on Broadway.”
Pascal is used to the road, whether touring in a musical or in concerts, like the one he did with Rent co-star Anthony Rapp at the O’Reilly Theater in 2019. But these are different times. Pascal has worked throughout the pandemic, including a duet with Rapp at the 2021 Tony Awards.
He said the toughest COVID protocols he has faced were on the set of the acclaimed Lin-Manuel Miranda movie, tick, tick … Boom!, a poignant portrait of the late Rent creator Jonathan Larson and the artist’s creative process.
In the massive Sunday production number, Pascal was joined by fellow original Rent cast members Daphne Rubin-Vega and Wilson Jermaine Heredia. The number was pieced together, so they didn’t share the set with people like Joel Grey, Phylicia Rashad, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Chita Rivera, and Bernadette Peters. And when they weren’t performing, everyone wore shields over masks.
The Rent trio were among those who knew and worked with Larson, who died on the eve of the first Broadway preview.
“There’s are a number of scenes in Jonathan Larson’s apartment, and the detail to which they re-created it is unbelievable,” Pascal said. “When we had some downtime, Lin took me, Daphne, and Wilson up to see it, and it was the craziest thing, an unbelievable reproduction. That was a highlight of working on that set.”
COVID-19 protocols don’t change as he has traveled from city to city with “Pretty Woman,” and there has been a stoppage along the way.
“You wear your mask, you have your vaccination cards, and occasionally there are breakthroughs,” he said. “We have only had to cancel two weeks of performances [in mid-December], but since then, we are doing really, really well. It hasn’t felt like too much of a burden at all.”
Pascal is on the road with Pretty Woman at least through October. As to what’s next, could there be more to Rogers the Musical – perhaps a full-scale Broadway show by the writing team of Shaiman and Scott Whitman?
“I loved doing it, and I am so grateful for the reaction of the fans,” said Pascal, admitting that he isn’t a comic book guy but understands their passion. “For the most part, I don’t read comments about things I am in, but for this, I did peruse social media. I’d say 99 percent of the comments were, this is great, and then there was that 1 present of devoted comic fans who were like, WTF is this?”
Still, he mused, Disney does have a highly successful theatrical arm, and Disney does own Marvel Entertainment …
For now, though, his focus is strictly on mining the fun and romance of Pretty Woman the Musical, with a Cinderella story that ushered in the 1990s, before Rent came along and redrew the boundaries of musical theater.
For tickets and more info visit: https://trustarts.org/production/69947/pretty-woman-the-musical
Categories: Show Previews