Without You by Anthony Rapp

Rating: 10/10 ★★★★★★★★★★ 
Title: Without You
Author: Anthony Rapp
Genre: Biography/Memoir
URL: Simon & Schuster
Price: US $16.00
Summary [from the publisher]:
Anthony Rapp had a special feeling about Jonathan Larson’s rock musical Rent as early as his first audition, which won him a starring role as the video artist Mark Cohen. The Pulitzer Prize-winning Rent opened to thunderous acclaim off-Broadway — but even as friends and family were celebrating the show’s first success, they were also mourning Jonathan Larson’s sudden death from an aortic aneurysm. And when Anthony’s mom began to lose her battle with cancer, Anthony found himself struggling to balance his life in the theater with his responsibility to his family.

In Without You, Anthony tells of his exhilarating journey with the cast and crew of Rent as well as the intimacies of his personal life behind the curtain. Marked by fledgling love and devastating loss, Without You is an exceptional memoir of the world of theater, the love of a son for his mother, and maturity won far too early.

My review:
I’ve wanted to read this for a while, but not before seeing at least the movie version of Rent. Off to the library I went and borrowed a copy of both film and book. I’m certain I would have appreciated this story, loosely based on Puccini’s La Bohème, a lot more in its original version as a play, and had I been about 30 years younger. Back then I probably would have been able to empathize with a cast of talentless characters who wanted to succeed as artists, but who could barely keep a roof over their heads. Now, I just look at them with disdain and wish they would find a job.

If the characters were likable, I may have been able to forgive their flaws. They were miserable, whiny, self-indulgent, irresponsible and lazy. The story took place in New York, but nothing in the film reminded me of the city. The songs, while sung with passion, were loud and repetitive, and by the film’s conclusion, I could barely remember a single song or any of the lyrics. There are other films that deal with drug addiction, homosexuality, poverty and AIDS much more sensitively. Sadly, this was not one of them.

Even though I didn’t care for Rent, I enjoyed reading of the hard work, love, passion and joy that went into making the play.

“Chills shot up my arms and spine and the back of my head. I had never heard a song like it, especially in a musical; there was a directness and a simplicity and a groove to it that were thrillingly new to my ears. I felt everyone in the room lean forward into the music.”

Anthony Rapp, who played Mark Cohen in the play and film, wrote a very powerful, touching and honest memoir detailing his theater experiences, his relationships with cast members, family and friends, his sexuality, and his mother’s battle with cancer. Even if you haven’t seen, or are not a fan of Rent, this engrossing memoir is well worth reading. Anthony writes so candidly, openly and personally about his life and work, that I often felt I was sitting across a table from him rather than reading his book.

Very well done.