The powerhouse Broadway vocal style — aiming at the last row, building everything to a big finish — may seem too stereotypical to work anywhere else; except perhaps in the capable and surprisingly versatile hands of Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp.
Musical partners since meeting in the original cast of “Rent,” they sang some Broadway songs on Saturday at The Egg’s (larger and two-thirds-filled) Hart Theatre, performing separately and together. But their first collaboration was Peter Gabriel’s “Solisbury Hill” and, no, they didn’t over-sing it.
Pascal started the two-set song recital, attacking stereotypes with ambiguous intentions: He over-sang “Memory” from “Cats” to both hilarious and musically impressive effect. Then he promised to “clear our palettes from the horror that is ‘Cats’ ” — which is reportedly anything but horrible these days by C&R Productions at the Cohoes Music Hall — with “Joanna,” built on similar chords and tempo. After the surprise duet with Rapp on “Solisbury Hill” came an original from Pascal’s album with Larry Edoff, and Pascal’s over-wrought treatment unfortunately suggested a lack of trust in it.
More successful was a strong segue from “I Don’t Care” (“Cabaret”) into Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” but his best song was perhaps his most Broadway-familiar: “Maria” from “West Side Story” in a jazz trio arrangement with Edoff, drummer Gary Seligson and Pascal’s own bass playing. However, his heartfelt tribute to the late heavy metal singer Ronnie James Dio (Black Sabbath, Rainbow and a big influence on Pascal) was both musically strong and sincere.
Pascal showed off more vocal power, but Rapp brought more to the stage: a full-on rock band featuring local-hero guitarist David Malachowski, better songs and a stronger sense of investment in them.
Rapp rocked his originals “Living Alive” and “Then Again” before Radiohead’s “Creep” and R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion,” and he later paid tribute to Snow Patrol. He sang songs from “Rent” and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” — he’s entitled: he performed in both. He rocked them, and it was really good.
The band nailed it, every song: thunder-bassist Paul Gill, active drummer Pete Asarisi and solid keyboardist Dan Weiss from the original Broadway “Rent” band. Malachowski played the best solos and rocked and spiced and flavored and colored everything. Personalizing the familiar “Rent” songs, Rapp wove them into a narrative about his mother’s illness and death, recounting how he sang “Without You” from “Rent” at her memorial service.
When Pascal joined him onstage in “Not Alone,” the crowd screamed and Pascal repaid their devotion with a towering performance while Rapp more than held his own. They divided for encores — Pascal in “One Song Glory” and Rapp in “No Day But Today” — but they reunited, and brought both their bands back on, in “Seasons of Love.” Very cool.
The show was paced with great emotional and musical intelligence, and the performances sparkled throughout. Whatever anyone might think about Broadway singing and Broadway songs, Rapp and Pascal ultimately delivered all any music fan could ever hope for: terrific songs, wherever they came from, sung and played terrifically well.
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