In fact, Adam was so busy that my TheaterMania interview with him almost didn't happen; not having eaten all day, his hunger overpowered him and caused him to forget the appointment, which was scheduled during the precious few hours in between his Wednesday matinee and evening performances. He said that this had never happened to him before, and he apologized profusely. Don't sweat it, Adam; a man's gotta eat! Besides, our talk was well worth the wait.
Has success and fame made this guy any less human? Absolutely not. If you don't believe me, read on, and see how down-to-earth he is. Or, better yet, catch Adam as a special guest star at the July 31 opening night event of the new performance venue Alice's DownUnder, located at 221 West 46th Street in Manhattan. (Doors open at 9pm, show at 10pm; the cover charge is $20. Phone 212-631-0006 for reservations.)
TM: Although most people know you from Rent, and now Aida, you were actually a hard rocker before these shows. Can you describe your music career prior to Rent?
ADAM: Well, unfortunately, it wasn't much of a career. I was in bands all through high school and college, and, you know, did sort of the whole struggling musician route. We were trying to get record deals, playing clubs here in Manhattan and out on Long Island, and just trying to gain a following.
TM: That band was called Mute, right?
ADAM: Right. And it just never happened, as is the case with most bands. It never came together. After 10 years, I said, "I can't keep doing this anymore." We were all sort of losing interest in it and getting disillusioned, and so I left the band. Like, three months later, I got called into this audition for Rent.
TM: And that marked the beginning of your theater career?
ADAM: Pretty much, yeah. A friend of mine knew that I'd broken up with the band, and he was dating Idina Menzel, who had already been cast as Maureen. So he knew about the show. He knew that they were looking for somebody for this role of Roger, and that they were going more on this rock-and-roll singer route as opposed to your legit Broadway performers. He called me up and asked me if I wanted to audition. I wasn't doing anything, and it sounded like something really interesting and different--something I've never done before. So I kinda went for it.
TM: How would you compare a Mute concert to, say, a performance of Aida?
ADAM: [Laughs] It's been so long now. But the first thing I'd say is that, with Aida, there are people in the audience! [Laughs] With Mute, more often than not, we literally were performing to empty clubs.
TM: So, there was no stage diving?
ADAM: No stage diving. No. Definitely not. It was very disheartening, because you pour everything you have into the music and nobody really cares, you know? Nobody's interested. There are so many bands, so many clubs. It's so hard to make an impact without any sort of "ins" anywhere. We were just these four kids from Long Island.
TM: Speaking of "stage diving," you and Heather Headley had a pretty serious accident during an out of town performance of Aida, didn't you?
ADAM: We did. Absolutely.
TM: Can you describe it?
ADAM: Sure. It was the tomb we get placed in at the end of the show. At the beginning of the Chicago production, the concept was that this tomb would rise up 15 feet off of the stage. Then, basically, what happens now happened then--except this thing was up in the air. It had been making noise, and it had always made noise. It was rickety from the first day we got in it. But at this particular performance...it was our second preview, we were up there doing our thing, and the lifting device gave out. We just came crashing down inside this thing, we hit the stage, and it popped the tomb. We were lying on the stage. The funny thing is, that's our death [in the show] at that moment--so, for a few seconds, a lot of the audience thought it was part of the show. Then somebody got on a microphone and said, "Is there a doctor in the house?" It was a very clichéd thing you've seen. "Is there a doctor in the house?" People came running up on the stage, they dropped the curtain, blah, blah, blah. It was scary, you know? Luckily, we made it out fairly unscathed. We got hurt, but we weren't seriously hurt. I tore some muscles in my ribs, and I had some bad bruising on my foot and my butt. Heather got some pretty bad bruising, too. But no broken bones, concussions--no stuff like that.
ADAM: Not really. I mean, the pigeonholing that I was worried about was the musical theater pigeonhole--and, obviously, Aida is another musical theater project. But, also...when I was doing Rent, when it first started, I was a lot younger physically and emotionally, and I think that I had a lot of preconceived ideas about what a true rock-and-roller was. You know what I mean? I was very concerned about maintaining that integrity. But as I got older, experienced a little bit more, and went through a lot these past five years, I've realized that it was only myself that was really pigeonholing me. I can, as well as anyone else, do whatever I want. And if it's quality work, quality material, people will accept it. So, I figured: "I love doing musical theater, I've had success at it. I should keep doing it because people seem to enjoy it, I've enjoyed doing it, and, at the same time, it will be a good avenue for me to pursue my own music." I think I'm lucky that I've kind of created my own niche. There are all of these actors over in Hollywood--they all look alike, they're all vying for the same roles, and I'm so not interested in that sort of thing. I think I offer something different than those guys. They can't sing like I can sing, they don't do what I do. I feel like my music is what distinguishes me from other performers. I'm confident that I can offer something unique.
TM: One way in which you're unique is that you've branched out into so many fields. Aside from your other accomplishments, you're a co-producer of Fully Committed Off-Broadway.
ADAM: That was pure luck. We just happened to come across this show way back in the workshop stages of it, and it was so good. We couldn't believe that nobody was doing anything with it. So, Jesse Martin [Rent's original Tom Collins] and myself kinda got behind it. I do want to continue to produce; because I did have success at it my first time out, I'd like to keep doing it! My wife is a playwright, and I'd like to produce some of her work.
TM: Producing, acting, directing--and now you're a rock artist again. Your first solo album, Model Prisoner, is getting rave reviews. You're breaking the rule that people in the entertainment business can only do one thing at a time.
ADAM: Yeah. It's sort of silly, but that's this country. I don't think it's like that in the rest of the world. Here, people like to categorize you.
TM: The Ford assembly line...
ADAM: Yeah, exactly! You're either this or you're that. And you know what doesn't help? What doesn't help is a lot of actors who say, "Oh, I wanna make music now," and they make music and it sucks. So, when you are an actor and you can make music, people have a much harder time accepting it. With some actors, it's not about this burning desire to make music; it's about, "I just want to be a bigger star than I already am."
TM: How has your agent responded to your branching out?
ADAM: Well, my agent has known from the very beginning what I truly love to do, which is to play music and to play my own music. So she's been completely supportive of that from the very beginning.
TM: What should your fans expect from your set at Alice's DownUnder?
ADAM: It's gonna be me and the Hedwig band [The Inch Worms of Hedwig and the Angry Inch fame] just rocking out, doing Hedwig songs. I know the guys are a little bit bummed, because they wanted to get away from the Hedwig stuff, but it's probably gonna be the only opportunity I'll have to do that music that I love so much. I'm such a huge fan of Hedwig, and this will be my only shot to do it with the band that played the show. I said to them, "Look, guys, you've just got to stick it out one more time!" So we're gonna do about four, maybe five songs from the show.
TM: For your more obsessed fans, who like to ignore your famously happy marriage, do you plan to perform bare-chested at this concert as you do in Aida?
ADAM: [Laughs] It's possible! I haven't exactly decided what I'm going to wear yet, but it's definitely possible.
TM: Have you consulted Sh-K-Boom Records, your label, about the appropriate marketing of the event?
ADAM: They would probably want me to do whatever I could to sell tickets and to sell records. But, you know, I want to be comfortable, and I want to represent myself the best I can. I was never one to sort of put on a costume when I was playing my own music. So, we'll see.
TM: If you do decide to take your shirt off in the concert, we'll try to have TheaterMania spread the word to your fans.
ADAM: Well, terrific. Thank you. I appreciate that!
[To go to Adam Pascal's section of the Sh-K-Boom website, click Here.]