By Arrangement with RJ Productions
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited
This is an alert notice for the residents of Northern NJ and beyond, informing them that there are options other than trekking into the great entertainment mecca across the river to satisfy their cultural appetite. Yes, there are many reputable regional theaters in New Jersey as well as NJ PAC; but also there is a little gem that is beginning to shine quite brightly on the Kean University Campus. I recently discovered the diverse musical and theatrical programs being offered by Kean Stage when attending the series for the first time to hear Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp in concert, celebrating their twenty years of friendship, since first appearing together in the original cast of “Rent” on Broadway. The events scheduled for their 2016/2017 Season range from solo concerts by Broadway stars and musical icons like Judy Collins at the Enlow recital hall, A Christmas Carol and Hip Hop Legend Rennie Harris at the larger Wilkins theater, productions by Premiere Stages an Equity theatre in residence at the Zella Fry Theatre, along with a list of guest orchestras, dance troupes, children’s theater and even Shanghai Acrobats.
This particular concert took place in the Enlow Recital Hall, an intimate space with about 300 seats and great sight lines along with excellent acoustics. Adam Pascal starts off the evening on guitar accompanied by Larry Edoff on piano and Tyler Macneal on drums. He dazzles the audience with his powerful vocal pyrotechnics that reflect a pop rock sound infused into the eclectic song list that includes The Beatles “She’s Leaving Home” and Billy Joel’s “Vienna.” These choices work sometimes but his set relies more on persona rather than connectivity.
Anthony Rapp fairs much better choosing material that allows him to commit to the lyrics and establish a character driven performance. He captures the force of Broadway rock which catapulted him to fame with selections such as “Origins of Love” from “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and “Falling Slowly” from “Once.” His most engaging moments but somewhat somber came with “Visits” a song he wrote when his mother was dying and “Without You” which he sang at her funeral. Mr. Rapp is accompanied by his band Paul Gill on bass, David Malachowski on guitar, Peter Sachon on cello, John Korba on piano and the excessive volume of Jerry Marotta on drums.
The evening closes when Mr. Pascal appears to join Mr. Rapp in some familiar songs from “Rent” that have already become part of their legacy. The audience reveled as they absorbed the words and sounds of “What You Own,” “One Song Glory,” “Another Day,” and “Seasons of Love,” clearly leaving them in a jubilant state as they rose to their feet with thunderous applause.
Take a timely advantage and check out the entire season at Kean Stage before word gets out about the incredible entertainment available that is affordable and so close to home.