In the original New York Theatre Workshop production in 1995-96, those parts were played by Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal. They played them again when the show moved to Broadway, when it opened in London and when it was made into a movie. Beginning on July 30, the duo — now 35 and 36 years old, respectively — returned to the Broadway production for the first time in nearly a decade, for a six-week summer run. Judging by the audience response, theatregoers still regard them as the once-and-future East Village bohemians. Rapp and Pascal talked to Playbill.com in the auditorium of the Nederlander Theatre before donning their plaid pants and striped scarf for the Wednesday matinee.
Playbill.com: Aside from the one-night-only 10th anniversary reunion performance in April 2006, when was the last time you guys did the stage show?
Anthony Rapp: On stage, 1998 in September.
Playbill.com: You've done two shows so far in this return stint on Broadway. How does it feel?
AR: Like home. The response has been unbelievable. I'd be interested to see if that continues to be the case eight shows a week for six weeks.
Adam Pascal: The last couple nights, certainly outside the stage door, have been like nothing I've ever experienced.
Playbill.com: Did you recognize some old faces among the groupies? AP: No. All new.
AR: We were sort of popular back in the day. We had people waiting for us. But it was sane. Now, it's a little crazy. It's incredible. There's a frenzy to it. We literally had to put up barricades. The first night we didn't have barricades, and everybody was getting crushed.
AP: People were getting hurt, passing out.
AR: (Laughing) It was crazy!
AP: You walk out and you can't really see any people. All you see are hands holding things out.
AP: They were on top of our car. They surrounded our car. They were shaking the car. (Laughs)
AR: Now they've got the barricades and it's more structured. But back in the day, we were able to talk to everybody, and sign for everybody if we wanted to. Here, there's no way. It's not even about the number of people, it's just physically there's not a way to get to them all.
AP: There are so many people that once the people in front get their things signed, there's no way they can leave. They're so mashed into the crowd that the crowd never thins out. It's so dense.
Playbill.com: I guess to these younger people, you guys are legends that they've heard of, but never seen.
AP: I guess. It's weird. Playbill.com: How did this reunion come about?
AP: It was kind of [producer] Jeffrey [Seller's] idea. He had a six-week window in-between actors playing Mark and Roger. Jeffrey and I have been working together on other projects. I think I jokingly said to him in an e-mail, "Hey, maybe I'll come back to Rent," because I was going to be in New York at this time anyway. "Ha, ha, ha." He called me back a couple weeks later and said, "Listen, I have this idea. I know you said you were going to be in New York. We have this window, and I want to ask Anthony. Would you be interested in doing the show?" It was the perfect scenario to come back.
Playbill.com: So you said yes. You didn't have to think about it.
AP: (Laughs) Well, I waited to see what Anthony said.
AR: Because when I got an e-mail saying Adam was coming back, I didn't know if that was a ploy, or if it was real. So I called Adam, and it was true. Then it was like no question —
Playbill.com: You're older now. How does it feel physically to do the show every night?
AR: Hard. (Laughs)
AP: I have a back problem that I have to be conscious of, so I don't move quite as sprightly as I did. My jumping on the table has become stepping on the table. My jumping off the table has become stepping off the table.
AR: When we were downtown at New York Theatre Workshop, we didn't have understudies. And there was a night when I had a flu thing and a fever over 101, and I did the show. After last night, I can't imagine how that was possible. I really don't know how I did it. Because I was about to collapse at the end of last night's show.
Playbill.com: What about vocally? Did you guys have to get your voices back in shape?
AP: I've been doing a lot of touring with my own music, so my voice is pretty much in good shape. But this takes a special kind of stamina. You just have to get used to it. There's really no preparing for it, other than the preparing you do before every individual show. For me, it become like muscle memory. You know how to get through two shows a day without blowing your voice out. How to approach those high notes, how to pull back when you need to, how to lip sync if you have to in the group numbers. You just do what you have to do.
Playbill.com: Do you have the same dressing rooms you had at the start of Rent's Broadway run?
AR and AP: Same rooms.
Playbill.com: Did you bring back any special totems or items for good luck?
AP: (Laughs) I'm not that kind of person.
Playbill.com: You don't wear the same socks every performance?