A book, a movie and DVD, even an album Anthony Rapp does it all
Forget about the Chinese calling this the Year of the Dog. With all that’s been going on, it’s turnout out to be the Year of Anthony Rapp.
Although the actor’s name might not be as familiar to most people as Tom Cruise, the past 12 months have been a whirlwind for Rapp.
About a year ago, he finally began filming “Rent,” the long-delayed movie version of the hit Broadway musical that he helped originate. In November, the film was released to generally positive reviews, many singling out his performance. Just this week, the DVD of “Rent” hit store shelves.
Earlier this month, Rapp’s autobiography “Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss and the Musical “‘Rent'” came out to stellar notices. And if that’s not enough, his band (newly christened Albino Kid) is going to release an EP of new songs within the next few months.
Rapp might not be make headlines for leaping over Oprah’s couch, but that’s just because he’s been too busy proving himself a latter-day Renaissance man.
“It is a bit overwhelming,” he says from a terminal at JFK International Airport in New York, in a few stolen moments before hopping on a plane to attend book-signings in Florida. “It’s a very, very busy time for me but quite satisfying to see the incredible response. Pretty wild.”
The response he’s referring to has been the near-universal acclaim, from critics and readers, for “Without You,” which chronicles not only his career but also the very sad story about the death of his mother. The Kirkus Review wrote a rave “the kind of review my editor might have written,” Rapp says and readers have been turning out by the hundreds to attend his signings. Rapp will be at a signing Monday in Dallas, and will also perform at The Column Awards Gala on Sunday.
Not bad for someone who had never tackled such a far-reaching assignment before.
“I’ve been writing since I was a little kid, but I never took on a big book project until this,” he says, noting that it took more than six years from start to finish.
“It’s something that’s been in my blood for a long time,” he explains. “It was odd to try to figure out sustaining such a long project, and it’s was very personal so hard to know how to crack it.”
Although the book addresses his experiences working on “Rent” and his friendship with the author and composer, Jonathan Larson, it’s less a celebrity tell-all than a plainspoken and honest dissection of the emotional upheaval Rapp went through as his mother was dying.
“Going through that with my mom was the hardest part but one I really wanted to do in the first place,” he says. “I wanted to share the experience of going through such a profound loss. Especially for people who are younger, there’s not a lot of literature out there about this.”
The reaction to the book has largely mirrored his journey with the iconic musical: It has opened the eyes of many younger people and had a soothing, cathartic effect on them and Rapp himself.
“All of my hopes are already realized,” Rapp says of the reception. “People are telling me the book has made a difference in their lives helped them open up to their parents or inspired them or moved them. The intensity is far more than I expected.”
Perhaps he shouldn’t have been surprised. “Rent,” after all, is well known for having the same effect on its fans.
“I’ve talked to so many young people who have been so moved by the story of AIDS and HIV and have been educated by it. There’s a big difference between seeing these stories and a health class,” he says.
And that made Rapp bristle at some of the criticism directed at the movie version.
“Apparently there were some places in the Bible Belt, where no one went to see the movie, ever. So it was surprising to me that it pressed buttons on the left,” he says. “It was like some people had been waiting 10 years to weigh in on this phenomenon. They thought it shouldn’t be a musical, that it should be grittier. I dare these reviewers to say it’s irrelevant.”
Nevertheless, Rapp was delighted by the experience of the film adaptation. Almost all of the original cast members retuned for the movie, and they had remained friends through the years. It also offered him a rare opportunity.
“It was great to see my friends’ performances, because I’d never seen them, I was always acting with them,” he says.
Rapp agreed to come back to Dallas for the Column Awards Gala after receiving an invitation by its founder, John Garcia.
“John I met in Dallas when I was doing “‘Little Shop,’ and he just invited me,” Rapp says. “I was very honored and flattered to be able to show up for the arts community in Texas. If my being there can shine a little more light on it, I’m happy to help out.”
Anthony Rapp will appear at The Column Awards Gala at the Plano Courtyard Theater, 1509 H Ave., Plano, on Sunday at 8 p.m. $20 for general admission, $50 for private reception with Rapp. Thecolumnonline.com.
Rapp conducts a book signing at Barnes & Noble, 616 Preston Royal Shopping Center on Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. Free. 214-363-0924.
DALLAS-AREA DRAMA AWARDS FIGHT AIDS
For eight years, The Column an online magazine focusing on the theater community has presented awards for excellence on the stage. And while awards are great, the real purpose for the gala is something else, according to executive director John Garcia: To raise money.
“It’s fun not at all stuffy but I’m happy to say we’ve raised more than $6,000 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS,” says Garcia. “We’re the only awards group in Texas that does that to that organization. It’s a way to help our own in the theater community who are HIV-positive we want to be there for them.”
It is appropriate, then, that this year the gay-centric Uptown Players leads the pack with 52 nominations. Uptown is also “the first theater company ever to have its entire musical season get nominated,” Garcia says.
But 52 nominations? That’s a lot. How do they hand them all out? Not to worry, Garcia insists.
“We’re able to go through them so fast because we don’t have acceptance speeches,” he says.
Arnold Wayne Jones
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, February 24, 2006.