Without You, a new solo musical written and performed by original Rent cast member Anthony Rapp at the TBG Theater, likely won't tell diehard fans of the beloved musical anything that they haven't already heard. However, it's unlikely they'll ever hear these stories told or songs performed with more sincerity and emotion than Rapp brings to his stage memoir (based upon his 2006 book of the same name).
As Rapp weaves in music from Rent to document that show's rehearsal period, the sudden death of composer Jonathan Larson on the eve of the show's first preview, the posthumous Pulitzer Prize, and the transfer to Broadway where Rent became a phenomenon, he transforms an often-told Broadway legend into a personal and heartfelt reflection on how Rent, and those he met as a result of it, changed his life.
Along with these stories, Without You is also a chronicle of Rapp's final years with his mother who passed away in 1997 after a battle with cancer. Rapp recalls many conversations with the woman who meant so much to him, speaking openly about his fear and anger as he watched her health deteriorate. Performing with intensity songs that he wrote in collaboration with David Matos, John Keaney, and Joe Pisapia, Rapp reflects upon his difficult visits home and ultimately letting his mother go.
In many ways, Rapp's story feels better suited for the stage than it did for a book, because of the raw emotion he brings to his performance and music. The result is a touching theatrical event in which Rapp invites audiences to experience with him a journey of success, loss, and love.
-- Meredith Lee