Anthony Rapp is Back in Massachusetts Again with “Without You”

I cried through the entire performance as Anthony Rapp returned to Boston to perform his most-personal musical, Without You. It was just as spectacular as it was 2015, and in 2012 before that.

Without You is Anthony’s story of playing the role of Mark in Rent, the Broadway musical and film, his relationship with Rent’s writer, Johnathan Larson, his own mother, and coming to terms with both their deaths. I wrote about Rent and Mark in my book. Excerpts here:

I went to see Rent. Again. It’s a Broadway musical that had started touring around the country. Kate, Patricia, Beth and I had seen it in New York during its original run. I’m not really sure what it’s about. Those who know more than I say it is a modern retelling of La Bohème, whatever that is (It’s an opera by Puccini, whoever he is). But this version has something to do with love and AIDS and living and dying in New York. The music is haunting. And popular. When Patricia was in fifth grade, her school chorus included some of its songs in their holiday concert. I was always surprised the music director overlooked the words and the themes when she selected music for an elementary school performance. Or had she?

For the last couple of years, every time the show came to Boston or Providence, I found myself drawn to it. Kate and I managed to get to the movies together regularly; we could pull this off because Patricia was medicated at 7 p.m. and asleep for the night by 9. And Patricia slept so soundly, we knew she would be safe if we went to a 9:30 movie that was playing 10 minutes from home. Driving more than an hour to go to an 8:00 show wasn’t something we could do together very often, so again, I ended up going alone.

As I sat there, dead-center in the eighth row, (because you can buy a single ticket dead-center in the eighth row on the day before the performance even if it’s been sold out of the two-seats-next-to-each-other seats for months), I realized the story playing out in front of me was actually my life. I was Mark, the filmmaker character in the play. He spends his entire existence lurking on the sidelines, documenting what’s going on around him, as the rest of the characters, including Angel, the drag queen who succumbs to AIDS in the third act, all live incredibly full and deeply satisfying days. Mark’s only contribution is to get in the way while he tries to film everything.

My favorite song in the show is sung by one of the bit-part characters, Gordon. It’s less than a minute long. He sings it as he introduces himself to today’s group at the Life Support meeting at the local community center. These meetings are a chance for men and women who are living with the inevitability of death by AIDS to get together and talk—to talk about whatever they want. About how they are feeling. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. Mark, of course, bullies his way into the meeting.

This day, at this performance, for the first time, I heard and really comprehended the words of Gordon’s song. He sings about how he is surprised to be alive. How logic and reason no longer work for him. How he should have died three years ago.

We were just passing the three-year mark on Patricia’s journey.

She was still alive.

I’m supposed to be the engineer. And on that day, I was having trouble with logic and reason, too.

—Pages 173-174, Witness to the Dark by Bob Larsted

… and later near the end of the book:

I saw Rent again tonight—the movie this time. I wanted to take a second look at Mark to see if he really is the loser I made him out to be in the Parent Support Group chapter. Maybe he’s not. During the first few seconds of the movie, he tells us he’s thrown out the script and instead of trying to direct everything, he is just going to experience real life—something far more interesting than he could come up with on his own. And so Mark gets to live, too.

—Page 245, Witness to the Dark by Bob Larsted