CL: How much longer do you think youll be able to play Roger? You first played the role more than a decade ago, and since then youve gotten married, had kids, been in a few movies and produced a couple albums thats a far cry from a struggling artist in NYCs East Village.
AP: (laugh) Yeah, I think thats why were doing this, you know? I can pretty confidently say that this is going to be our last endeavor with the show in any kind of extended run. We wanted to come back to the stage, to bring the show to the audiences who never made it to Broadway, to theaters all around the country, for one last run. [The "we" to whom Pascal refers includes himself and Anthony Rapp, who played Mark Cohen in the original run and the film version, and joins him in the current touring show.]
CL: When the show moved to the big screen, it brought RENT to a new generation kids who arent as familiar with the devastation of AIDS or pre-Giuliani NYC. Do you think RENT still has the impact and relatability of its opening run?
AP: Well, what weve come to learn over the years is that the relatability so to speak, isnt really about the specific issues the characters deal with, its about the broader message of the show. Like La Boheme, which the show is based on, the emotional impact is not lost on the audience, even though people dont get tuberculosis anymore. That they get AIDS (in RENT) is incidental; its how the characters support each other, how they care about each other and love each other thats important. So even though people dont get AIDS as much anymore, at least in this country, it continues to be relevant.
CL: Do you think that RENT has the same impact on screen as it does onstage? And on a similar note, do you find it ironic that a show about young artists living on societys fringes has become a marketing tool?
AP: Yeah, its absolutely bizarre. Its like, you can use the analogy of when Nirvana became so popular. Grunge was anti-establishment and everything they were doing was to combat that, and everything they were writing music about, and then they became huge. But I was thrilled with the success [of the Broadway run and the movie]. I mean, maybe before we started I was worried about maintaining its integrity, but we realized once we got there that the show belonged on Broadway.
CL: Since you came from a rock background, was it difficult to acclimate to the culture of musicals and Broadway? Or was your previous experience an inspiration for playing the role of a punk rocker hoping to create one memorable song?
AP: It felt comfortable from day one, more comfortable than a rock band. I felt like it was something I was meant to do and I never had a problem doing it. Yeah, I think my background made me feel comfortable in that role, and now because Ive been doing it so long and Im comfortable playing that part, vocally Ive become synonymous with that role. It helped establish me.
CL: In a 1998 interview for outpatient.com, you said that when you landed the role of Roger, you "werent jumping for joy" because the show wasnt the phenomenon its become. When did you realize just how big the show had become?
AP: I think when we moved to Broadway, we knew it would be really special and it was gonna last. I mean, we knew it was special already, but thats when we knew we could quit our day jobs.