‘Rent’ star Anthony Rapp arrives with his one-man musical memoir of that landmark work

Photo by Russ Rowland

Previously best known in Japan as a cast member of the world-renowned, Tony award-winning rock musical “Rent”, Anthony Rapp is set to reach a new generation of theatregoers here when his one-man autobiographical musical “Without You” opens March 3 in Tokyo — with the 52-year-old Chicago-born actor in the leading role.

World premiered in 1996, “Rent” won four Tony awards as well as a Pulitzer prize for its writer, composer and lyricist, Jonathan Larson, who actually died from a ruptured aorta the day before it opened.

Initially controversial for its gritty depiction of the daily lives of a bohemian group of young artists living under the shadow of AIDS in Lower Manhattan’s East Village in New York, “Rent” has been presented in Japan several times and gained lots of fans through productions with both Western and Japanese casts.

After debuting as a musical actor at the age of nine, Rapp shot to stardom with his central role as Mark Cohen, a Jewish-American documentary filmmaker, in the off-Broadway and then original Broadway productions of “Rent”.

As a close friend of Larson, the work’s late creator, in 2006 Rapp published his memoir about the days when the two of them, and others, worked together to stage “Rent”. That book also looked back on Larson’s death and that of Rapp’s mother, who also had a great influence on his life.

Photo by Russ Rowland

After that, Rapp created a one-man stage show based on his book, writing the script and including 26 songs in a playlist featuring titles from “Rent” as well as his own originals and memorial songs such as R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion”, which Rapp sang at his audition for “Rent.” And, of course, Rapp acted himself in his new work.

Photo by Russ Rowland

Following its 2008 world premiere in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, “Without You” toured in the U.S. ahead of stagings in Edinburgh, London and elsewhere in the UK, Canada and South Korea before arriving back at its off-Broadway spiritual home in 2023.

Photo by Russ Rowland

So, this long-awaited one-man work is finally set to open for an 11-show run in Tokyo from March 3. And you’d be well advised not to miss it.

“Without You” runs Mar. 3–11 at IMM Theater in Korakuen, Tokyo. For more details, visit https:/tickets.kyodotokyo.com/withoutyou/.