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‘Rent’ star Adam Pascal finds he’s well-suited for ‘Pretty Woman’ musical role

‘It’s everything I love about musicals,’ Pascal, who played Roger in ‘Rent, says of the musical based on the movie ‘Pretty Woman.’

Adam Pascal stars as Edward in “Pretty Woman — The Musical.”
Adam Pascal stars as Edward in “Pretty Woman — The Musical.”
Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

After an unprecedented 18 months of darkened theaters due to the COVID pandemic shutdowns, veteran Broadway actor Adam Pascal (“Rent,” “Aida”) is happy to be on the road performing the role of businessman Edward Lewis in the touring production of “Pretty Woman — The Musical.”

“Our industry was decimated, and we didn’t know how or when it was going to come back, and so the fact that I have a job means everything,” says Pascal, who kept busy teaching master classes on acting through song as well as doing personalized Cameo video requests.

“Pretty Woman” is, of course, based on the popular 1990 movie about sex worker, Vivian Ward (portrayed by rising star Olivia Valli, the daughter of pop singer Frankie Valli), and the aforementioned wealthy businessman who fall for each other. It features a score by Grammy winner Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance with a book by the movie’s director Garry Marshall and screenwriter J.F. Lawton. Tony Award-winner Jerry Mitchell directs.

“It’s everything I love about musicals,” says Pascal, who stepped into the role a few times during the production’s Broadway run. “We’re out there to entertain an audience, and hopefully a show has a compelling story and graspable melodies that people will remember. I think this show has all that.

“It’s probably my biggest acting role that I’ve done in terms of musical theater. There’s more spoken dialogue than singing ,and so that’s been fun and exciting. Plus I get to wear great suits.”

Something new on the tour that continues to take some getting used to are the COVID protocols that are incorporated into everything the actors do.

“We’ve all been safe so far, so it’s working,” Pascal says. “But it is weird to walk offstage and put a mask on and keep it on until the second you walk back on stage. Actors have walked on stage with their masks on. I almost did it the other night.”

Pascal, 51, grew up more interested in playing in rock bands than musical theater. One day, he says he was “in the right place at the right time,” and his life and career path changed thanks to a childhood friend who’s now a famous name.

“Idina Menzel and I grew up together,” he says. “One day, she called and told me she was doing this Off-Broadway [musical], and there was a role they hadn’t been able to cast. She said, ‘It sounds a lot like you if think this is something you would ever want to try.’ ”

That now-25-year-old musical was Jonathan Larson’s rock-infused “Rent,” which brought Broadway a new sense of what a musical could be. It earned rave reviews, a Pulitzer Prize and four Tony Awards. Pascal received a Tony nomination for his portrayal of HIV-positive rock guitarist Roger Davis. He reprised the role for the 2005 film version of the musical.

Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal reprise their roles and Mark and Roger, respectively, in the 2009 production of “Rent,” the Broadway Tour, at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts/Oriental Theatre in Chicago.
Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal reprise their roles and Mark and Roger, respectively, in the 2009 production of “Rent,” the Broadway Tour, at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts/Oriental Theatre in Chicago.
Copyright Joan Marcus

“The idea of auditioning for a show was interesting to me,” Pascal said. “But it didn’t go farther than that. I never thought about getting the job or if I got the job what that would mean.

“But the show changed my life and launched my career. The show had a huge impact on the world of musical theater, but my fondest memories are the connections I made with the cast, the lifelong friendships.”

After performing in “Rent” on Broadway and in London’s West End, Pascal was cast as Radames in Elton John and Tim Rice’s “Aida” and in roles in “Cabaret,” “Memphis,” “Chicago” and “Something Rotten!”

But he said he’s never far from the memorable songs in “Rent.” He performs them in his solo live show, which features his interpretations of musical theater tunes as well as the Cameo videos,where his most-requested songs are from “Rent.”

“They have never left my own personal zeitgeist,” he says. “When I sing them, I feel nostalgic, and I feel proud, and I feel amazed that I was a part of this iconic musical filled with these great songs.”