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"Rent" star Anthony Rapp shares stories of loss in "Without You" musical

Anthony Rapp explores grief and loss in one-man musical "Without You" in Boston
Anthony Rapp explores grief and loss in one-man musical "Without You" in Boston 03:24

BOSTON - "Rent" star Anthony Rapp is bringing his musical "Without You" to Boston, where he shares how two major losses impacted his life while starring in one of Broadway's biggest shows.

Exploring loss and grief

The lyrics "no day but today" have special meaning for Rapp. While co-starring as one of the members of the original Broadway cast of "Rent," he lost two key figures in his life. "Rent" writer, lyricist and composer Jonathan Larson, and his mother, Mary.

Now, he's sharing their stories in "Without You," a musical based on his New York Times best-selling memoir. The piece, now on stage at the Calderwood Pavilion in the South End, follows him from his first "Rent" audition through his mom's death a few years later.

Rapp said his mother had always supported his acting, and was proud of the success of the show, but it was hard for him to be in New York, while she was in Ohio, fighting cancer.

"Doing (Rent) was helpful because the show was so much about, how do you keep living fully in the face of hardship, loss? Struggle? Crisis? So I was fortunate that I wasn't doing some wacky musical comedy. I think that helped me navigate it. And at the same time, it was really hard," said Rapp.

At the same time, the cast of "Rent" was coping with the loss of Larson, who died suddenly the day before the show's first preview performance.

"We were already really tight as a company. But when he died, it just fused us together with this elemental force that nothing was going to shake our commitment to him, to the piece, to each other," said Rapp.

Hoping to pay it forward

Steven Maler, the founding artistic director of Commonwealth Shakespeare Company based in Boston, helped Rapp transform his 2006 memoir about that time in his life, to the stage. The theater piece includes some key songs from "Rent," as well as some original music. Rapp also shares some conversations he had with his mother in her final days.

Now that he's a father of two, Rapp said he has "that much more appreciation for how difficult it must have been to be a mother, and going through what she was going through and to be among her children, and witnessing us witness her decline."

He said both his mom and Larson gave him so much and he hopes "by telling their story, I'm continuing to build on those gifts that they gave me and hopefully pay them forward and pass them on to others."

You can see "Without You" at the Calderwood through April 14.

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