"We all walked through the fire together. Sometimes, in crisis, people can really fall apart or it could really splinter people off... But it was like the opposite thing happened for all of us. It brought us even stronger together, so that foundation is always there," said Anthony Rapp. "No one went absent during one of the most trying times of any of our lives. We all showed up, and that... You can't make that up and you can't buy that, and that's forever."
Rapp refers to a time around Jan. 25, 1996, the day that Jonathan Larson, who crafted the Tony and Pulitzer Prize–winning musical Rent — arguably changing the face of contemporary musical theatre — died suddenly from an undiagnosed aortic aneurysm and would not see the musical's Off-Broadway premiere, triumphant Broadway life and ongoing success. Eighteen years and two days later, original cast member Rapp and his Rent comrades, Idina Menzel and director Michael Greif, began New York City rehearsals for If/Then, a new musical by fellow Pulitzer winners (and 2004 Larson Grant recipients) Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, which begins March 5 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.
"This is particularly heavenly because we're not just seeing each other for a glass of wine," Menzel said over lunch (on break from If/Then rehearsal) with her collaborators. "We're working together and creating something new. There's a nostalgia within the piece because our characters [are] old friends."
|photo by Joan Marcus|
In If/Then, helmed by Greif — a three-time Tony Award nominee for his direction of Rent, Grey Gardens and Kitt and Yorkey's previous project, Next to Normal — Menzel and Rapp respectively play Elizabeth and Lucas, longtime friends inspired by their real-life selves.
"We just always wanted to work together again," said Menzel, last seen on Broadway in her 2004 Tony-winning turn in Wicked, as she sipped from her green vegetable juice. "We wanted to find the right project, and Michael and Anthony, actually, had really nurtured the relationship with Tom and Brian [during Next to Normal], and [Wicked, Next to Normal and If/Then producer] David Stone and I became family... We kept putting it out there to the universe, and eventually, we found the right project."
"You know," Greif added, "we had an extraordinary experience on Next to Normal — Anthony, actually, was my assistant at [Off-Broadway's] Second Stage... Having gone through an experience like that, especially with a successful outcome... you really want to find another experience like that, so those writers and I certainly talked about looking forward to another project, and David Stone was very much involved with them as well. He was very excited about giving Tom and Brian and me another opportunity, and then Idina came into everyone's mind as someone wonderful to inspire this piece."
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