Actor/singer tours college campuses to pay the Rent

by Beacon Staff • April 5, 2006

Adam Pascal doesn't look like a rock star who would be besieged by screaming fans every time he takes the stage. After a performance on Friday night, when the audience constantly yelled for him to remove his clothing, he appeared completely relaxed and calm-and fully clothed.

Decked out in faded jeans, a pinstripe button-down and Velcro sneakers, his hair close-cropped, Pascal seemed more like the boy next door than a rock and Broadway star. Sitting on a couch in the Boston University Central Green Room, he discussed his life and his work, both as a musician and actor.

Boston University was the first stop on Pascal's two-week tour of college campuses, where he plays acoustic shows for small audiences. He said these shows allow him the opportunity to perform for his fans in the kinds of settings that he prefers.

"I wanted to try and do a fairly small, somewhat intimate setting," Pascal said. "I wanted to play venues where I had a little more control over the sound . I'm not a fan of clubs . you're at the whim of the manager and the sound director . and I didn't want to play places where kids who weren't 18 or 21 couldn't get in."

Pascal, who has released two rock albums, Model Prisoner and Civilian, is known for his roles on Broadway as Roger in Rent and Radames in Aida. He has also performed as the Emcee in Cabaret.

His lineup for the evening included songs from both of his albums, as well as a few songs from Broadway. The latter drew the most cheers from the audience, to which Pascal responded, "So it's all girls and gay guys in here, right?"

Pascal performed on an acoustic guitar and bass and was accompanied on the piano by Larry Edoff, receiving a standing ovation from the audience as well as calls for two encores.

However, Pascal said he is always skeptical of audience's reactions.

"I'm always questioning the legitimacy and validity of people's reactions," he said. "I got so used to playing empty clubs. You know, just our friends were watching us playing. I spent so many years doing that, as opposed to doing this, that I still have a hard time actually believing they are actually cheering for me."

Pascal said performing his own work feels the most risky to him.

"Doing this kind of thing is certainly the most concentration and work," he said. "I feel so much more exposed. I sort of feel like when you're doing a movie or a play, you get to hide in the character and the material. But this kind of thing, there's none of that. It's very exposed and has the most payoff."

He said his latest album, Civilian, was inspired by two events in his life: September 11 and the birth of his son, Lennon.

Despite the success of his two albums, Pascal said he has no desire to tour the country promoting it.

"I would love to be able to make my living making my own music," he said. "But I'm also at a point in my life where I don't want to put what you need to put in to make a lot of money-basically that means is touring."

That statement is ironic, Pascal said, because as a self-confessed metalhead teenager, all he wanted to do for years was tour.

"I'm at a point in my life now where I don't want to do that-I don't want to be away from home," he said. "Because of my lifestyle, I won't be financially successful. It's great that I'm on a record label that doesn't push me to do that. That's really unusual circumstances."

He confessed that perhaps the entire audience for his show was only there because they were fans of Rent and wanted to hear him sing his character's signature song, "Glory."

Rent, which was Pascal's introduction to acting and later earned him Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations, has been a major force in his life. He said he was originally skeptical of adapting it into a movie because the integrity of the original work might be compromised.

He said he was pleased, however, with the results, despite the mixed reviews the film received.

Rent, which brought homosexuality and AIDS to Broadway in 1996, was written by Jonathan Larson in tribute to the friends that he lost to the disease.

With frank discussion about the subjects, it was a cultural shock and phenomenon for many. Society's reception to it has changed over the years, however, according to Pascal.

"It seemed to have had much more of an impact 10 years ago than it does now," he said. "I think the reason the show was so successful was because of luck and timing. In 1995, the country was primed for a show like Rent. In 2005, the country wasn't. It's a much different world ten years later-culturally, politically. You have to think about the openness and acceptance of people in the Red States to go see a movie about gays and AIDS."

Revisiting the role of Roger was also a way of bidding it goodbye, Pascal said. The film brought him a sense of closure to Rent, despite the lasting impact it has had on his life.

"It will always be a part of my life," he said, citing his strong friendships with costars Jesse L. Martin and Anthony Rapp, as well as the everlasting demand for him to sing "Glory."

"I will always be connected to it," he said. "The show's still running. I'm still singing the song."