When Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp brought their unplugged show, “Acoustically Speaking,” to the stage on Saturday, they were not just performing random songs: they were sharing songs from timeline of their lives.
The performers, who met 25 years ago when they were in the first Broadway production of “Rent” together, shared those songs Saturday evening in the Bromeley Family Theater at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford as part of Bradford Creative & Performing Arts Center’s 2019-20 season.
The pair sang separate sets, occasionally joining the other in song.
Pascal play guitar as he sang; Rapp was accompanied by Dan Weiss, who they also met on the production of “Rent.” Weiss sang back-up vocals and alternated between guitar and piano.
Pascal took the stage first, starting his set with the song he sang during his “Rent” audition: “Red Hill Mining Town” by U2.
“I wouldn’t be here without this song,” he said. Pascal went on to describe the process of auditioning for “Rent” — a process that included several separate auditions. Pascal nearly gave up, only going to the final audition after prodding from a friend.
Rapp likewise began with his “Rent” audition song, REM’s “Losing My Religion.”
“It’s a safe thing to say that this song changed my life,” he said.
Pascal’s performance of “Elaborate Lives” from “Aida” was accompanied by stories of “Aida” co-writer Elton John. He also sang “Maybe This Time” from “Cabaret,” “Pity the Child” from “Chess,” “Funny Honey” from “Chicago,” “Hard to be the Bard” from “Something Rotten!”
While performing a song from “Spring Awakening,” Pascal was joined by Rapp.
During Rapp’s own set, as he prepared to sing “The Origin of Love” from “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” he invited the audience to imagine him wearing items from his costume from “Hedwig” — including a blue bustier, skirt, pink-and-blond mohawk wig and 5-inch-heeled boots — rather than the slacks and cardigan he was actually wearing.
As someone born in the 1970s, Rapp said music of the ’80s and ’90s “penetrated my soul.” With this in mind, he shared songs including “Better Be Home Soon” by Crowded House, “Creep” by Radiohead, “Everybody Hurts” by REM — a song he dedicated to “anybody going through something tough.”
Other songs including “Falling Slowly” from “Once”; “But Not for Me”; “Another Day,” “What You Own” and “One Song Glory, all from “Rent”; and “Wait for It” from Hamilton.”
When Rapp performed in “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” immediately after his first production of “Rent,” many felt it was a strange transition, but for him, it was a “wonderful bridge” to his next chapter.
His mother — and biggest supporter — died of cancer when he was in “Rent,” and the “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” reminded him of being in summer camp where his mother was a nurse.
For that reason, Rapp shared “Happiness” from “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” on Saturday. He sang also “Without You” from “Rent,” which he performed at his mother’s memorial service. A third song for his mother was one he wrote, with the help of a songwriter, about visiting his mother in hospice care.
Pascal and Rapp ended the show together with a performance of “Seasons of Love” — one of the most well known songs from “Rent.”
The pair shared a couple of thoughts about Bradford, too, during the performance.
Pascal noted, “I actually saw a video store in this town, which I haven’t seen in many, many years.”
On a more complimentary note, Rapp talked about the theater in which they performed, saying that in a town like Bradford, “a facility of this size means there’s support for the arts,” Rapp noted.
Prior to the performance, past BCPAC president Shane Oschman welcomed the audience. During his welcome, he noted that current president Fred Feightner is now in New York City booking acts for the 2020-21 BCPAC season.
Oschman said tickets are on sale for the final two performances of the regular season: Maureen McGovern with “A Long & Winding Road,” set for March 19, and the Harp Twins, who are coming to Bradford May 23.
Tickets can be purchased at bcpac.com or at the BCPAC office in Marilyn Horne Hall.