A rocker from Long Island, Adam Pascal found musical theater by chance when a high school friend suggested he audition for an off-Broadway production of a little musical called Rent. A bona-fide Broadway star after his Tony-nominated run in Jonathan Larson's moving musical, he went on to turn heads in Aida, Memphis, Cabaret, and Chicago, and is returning to 54 Below tonight with a set showcasing mash-ups of rock and showtunes. Pascal has never been short on passion and innovation in his music, and heads to the popular nightclub on the cusp of revealing exciting news about the new musical he has penned. He chatted with TheaterMania mere moments before seeing his work off to Sundance Musical Theatre Lab.
So, apparently Billy Flynn had a few secrets up his sleeve this summer. Tell us about this musical that you have been writing!
As much as I'm not a fan of adapting screenplays for the stage, this is an adaptation from a film with my own original music. I can't say which film yet, but it will be out there pretty soon because I'm about to submit it. Actually, today is my deadline to get it to Sundance for the Sundance Musical Theatre Lab. I'm just doing last-minute work on it, mixes and stuff like that. Starting very soon it will be very common knowledge. I'm really excited. I don't know if it's something that I'll ultimately be in. I always had the thought that I would be in it, but the more that I'm writing it and working on it, I'm sort of feeling less and less like I want to be in it, and would rather see somebody else do it. The film has such a specific mood and tone, and I was really trying to capture that musically. [My sound] seems to lend itself well.
You have played 54 Below. Why do you think it's becoming New York's newest hot spot?
I think that it has great sound, it's a lovely little room, and they're promoting it in seemingly the right way. They're attracting a Broadway audience. It's very intimate. I think that there's an audience to see these people outside of a Broadway theater, to see what they do on their own and not in the context of a musical or in the context of playing a character. People want to see these performers and what it is that they do outside of that genre.
That being said, give us a preview as to what you will be sharing with Broadway audiences at 54 Below.
I perform with my piano player Larry Edoff. We do a combination of rearranged Broadway material, as well as a combination of more pop/rock kind of stuff. And then there's some original stuff. It's all mashed together, I tell a few stories and try and make people laugh a little bit. I try to keep it really casual and improvise throughout. For someone who grew up as a musician playing in rock clubs in New York City in the eighties and nineties, it's so great to be able to have someplace that's like a home in a way. It's a New York club-type home that I never had in those days. I never felt a connection like that, where it felt like my place and I could keep going back and people would keep showing up!
What are some of your favorite Broadway tunes that we'll get to hear?
I do a little mash-up of a Jeff Buckley song with "Johanna" from Sweeney Todd. I do a version of "Memory" from Cats that's my own sort of rearranged version. I think at this show I'm going to be playing "Maybe This Time" from Cabaret. Of course we do our own version of "One Song Glory." "Mamma Who Bore Me" from Spring Awakening is another good one.
54 Below would be the perfect spot for a Rent reunion.
I just did this huge tour in 2009. I don't feel like I need a reunion yet. I feel like I just had a reunion on the tour with Anthony [Rapp] and the great cast that had been on Broadway. I feel like we should wait for the twenty-year anniversary. It's not really on my radar at the moment. I think the twenty will be a much more exciting time for everyone to do it. It's only a few years away, 2016!
When you're in the shower would we hear you rocking out to classic rock tunes, or a Broadway medley?
You know what's really weird? I've had the song "Young at Heart" stuck in my head for quite a long time. "Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you, when you're young at heart." My grandmother used to sing that song all the time, she loved it and loved the sentiment of it. I find myself humming and singing that song quite a bit, so that's probably what you'd hear me sing in the shower.
Your sons are twelve and nine, and you're very proud of your pictures of all of you jamming together. Any chance we'll get to hear The Pascal Family Band one day?
No! They do love music, but they're not particularly interested in doing it with me. It would be great if the two of them one day formed a band together. I love that idea of brothers forming a band like Kings of Leon or The Black Crowes.
In a few weeks you're headed to Japan for a few shows. What do you have in store for the Japanese?
They're doing this Broadway-type review concert. I'm the token American as part of the show. I'm going over there to perform with a bunch of Japanese musical-theater performers. I'm really looking forward to it. It's my favorite place in the whole world, so I can't wait to go back. Sometimes you go to a city or a country and you just feel an instinctual connection to it. I felt so enamored by the country, the people, and the history. It's a magical place to me.
When you're not traveling around the world performing or writing an exciting musical you've been working with your wife on Cybele's Free to Eat, which are allergen-free cookies. You've got every base covered!
(laughs) Yes, Cybele's Free to Eat is doing great. They're at about two-thousand stores across the country. People should look for them in their local grocery stores. We're working our way towards New York.
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