As a teenager, Adam Pascal didn’t perform in local theatrical troupes, never graced stage during its senior musical production, and was not the soloist in the choir.
A rocker at heart, Syosset’s Pascal would join his band at rock clubs around Long Island, Manhattan and New Jersey, always dreaming of being a part of the rock scene of Los Angeles. It was only a few years later when a friend of Pascal’s mentioned that his girlfriend, Idina, had landed a role in a new musical that was still being cast with inexperienced performers.
Pascal was intrigued and decided to audition. In 1996, Pascal made his Broadway debut in the original cast of Jonathan Larsen’s wildly popular Rent, opposite fellow Syosset alum Idina Menzel. After being nominated for a Tony Award for his performance as Roger, one of the lead roles in the poignant musical, Pascal went on to delight audiences in Broadway’s Aida and Cabaret.
Rent fans were thrilled to re-experience his depth and talent when he reprised the role of Roger in the 2005 film version of Rent. As the Syosset native readies to perform a concert with Anthony Rapp at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor on Monday, June 13, he chatted with Syosset Patch about his roots in the area, and how it has affected his admirable career.
How would you sum up your experience with Rent?
It has been the ultimate life changer and career changer. It changed my whole world. It sent me off down a path that I believe I was always supposed to be on but never conceived of until I was already on it.
Why do you think Rent has endured the test of time?
Rent is actually not really about AIDS. I think AIDS is metaphoric for something larger. It’s about how these characters deal with crisis and one another. I think that that’s really one of the longest lasting messages from Rent. The world was in a much better place when Rent opened, with exception to the AIDS crisis, and people didn’t seem as at each other throats back then as they do today. But I still think that people are as affected by the show as they were back then. It continues to affect people regardless of what’s going on in popular culture, it goes beyond that.
How did your upbringing in Syosset affect your growth as a musical theater performer?
I started playing in rock bands when I was 12 years old, and it totally formed my whole musical experience. I loved growing up in Syosset. I look back on my years on living there and going to high school with extremely fond memories.
Where would we have caught you hanging out?
I lived in The Woodlands, and I was really good friends with Peter Meyer [of ], and I used to work with him on the farm a lot. When what is now Equinox was the Cinema 150, an amazing movie theater, we used to go there all the time. Next to there was also a triplex movie theater, and we spent a lot of time in the parking lot! (laughs). I went to and we used to sneak out and go to that McDonald’s for lunch. There were lots of wooded areas where we used to do all sorts of illegal things (laughs). Just so much fun!
How would you describe Menzel and yourself in high school? [Pascal graduated in ’88, Menzel in ’89.]
I was all about my rock band, so by the time I got to high school that was part of my identity. I had a horrible mullet. I would hang out in the courtyard, and everyone was smoking cigarettes and pot. We had an open campus which was brilliant, but it didn’t make for a lot of positive study habits, at least for me! My band and I competed in the Battle of the Bands every year. Never won, but we did it every year! Idina was kind of quiet. She would probably say she was not your most mainstream kind of kid. When you’re in high school, one year makes a huge difference, so I didn’t hang out with anybody who was younger than me. But not only did we go to high school together, we lived down the street from each other. I’ve actually known her since we were in the fourth grade. From what I remember, when I was younger she kind of got picked on a little bit.
What are your thoughts when you return to the area to visit family or perform?
I’m staying at my sister’s in Huntington before the gig. My mom and stepfather still live in The Woodlands. I come back to Syosset a lot and I love it because the town looks so different. There’s so much more gentrification. There used to be a lot of woods, but they’re all gone. All the places we used to hang have been turned into something else.
Describe the concert experience people can expect from you at Bay Street Theatre.
The show that I’ve been performing for the past couple of years is with my writing partner Larry, who plays piano. I play an upright bass and I also play guitar in the show. We basically do our rearranged versions of Broadway stuff. I’d say there’s about 75 percent of that, and then 25 percent is our original material.