Pictured: Adam Pascal, center, poses with members of the New York Tech community at the RENT The Musical with Pre-show Meet and Greet on July 28.
When Adam Pascal (B.F.A. ’92) graduated from the communication arts program at the Long Island campus of New York Institute of Technology, Broadway was the furthest thing from his mind. “When I was at New York Tech, I wasn’t doing theater. It wasn’t part of my life. I was playing in rock bands,” says Pascal. Growing up in Syosset, N.Y., he sang in various rock bands from the age of 12. For many years as a student and post-graduation, he played the local New York club scene looking to catch a break. Flash forward to 1996, when he landed the role of Roger Davis in the then-unknown, off-Broadway production of Rent, changing his career trajectory forever.
After many years, Long Island and Rent called Pascal back home this summer as he returned to his roots to direct a four-performance run of the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical with Gene Forman’s Stage to Screen Productions, based in Huntington, N.Y.
“I was in Los Angeles for 15 years, recently had a life change, and I’ve been on tour for the last 20 months. For the first time in my life, I craved Long Island,” says Pascal. “I needed grounding, and I needed to go back to something that felt like home because I didn’t have any place that felt that way. It’s been great being back here. I have such an appreciation for Long Island that I didn’t have when I was growing up. When I was young, I couldn’t wait to get out, and now I feel like I can set roots here again.”
Pascal made his directorial debut on July 28. Prior to the opening night performance, Pascal met with members of the New York Tech community for conversation and photos.
“My niece grew up going to From Stage to Screen, so when I came back [to Long Island], Gene and I met, and I was telling him about my desire to direct,” he says. “He immediately said, ‘Why don’t you direct something for us? Why don’t you direct Rent?’ And, I was like, great. It was that quick, and we were off to the races.”
Not only did Pascal direct, but he was also involved in creating the set and lighting, among other things.
“When we started working together, I wasn’t sure what to expect,” says Forman. “But, he’s involved in every aspect of the production. He’s in the booth [and] he’s moving sets; he’s tailor-made to be a director.”
“It feels natural [directing Rent],” Pascal says. “I needed this production, and I needed Gene to test what I thought I already knew. This has been the most validating experience for me because I feel so confident now to go off and direct other things.”
Pascal gives credit to his time at New York Tech with helping him though this experience.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but my time at New York Tech has become invaluable to this new part of my career,” says Pascal. “Tech offered this great communications program where I studied TV, radio, and film production. I spent my days in the radio station and the TV station, learning all of the behind-the-scenes stuff. It was really interesting to me, and it has become very beneficial.”
The role of Roger Davis in Rent earned Pascal a 1996 Best Actor Tony Award nomination, and he won a Drama League and Obie award for his performance. The show went on to become a worldwide success and one of the longest-running shows in Broadway history. In 1997, he reprised the role of Roger (the first of several times he would do so) for the West End premiere of Rent.
Pascal’s career expanded to the big screen in 1998 when he appeared in the independent film SLC Punk! In 2000, he was cast as Radames in the Elton John and Tim Rice Broadway musical Aida, for which he received a Drama League award. He starred in the production for more than three years. Pascal once again visited the Broadway stage in 2003, this time as the final Emcee in the Sam Mendes/Rob Marshall production of Cabaret at Studio 54. Also, during that time, he was cast alongside Jack Black as Theo, the lead singer of No Vacancy, in 2003’s School of Rock.
Pascal reprised the role of Roger in the 2005 movie version of Rent and helped bring a new generation of fans to the Broadway show and its music. What he thought would be the last chapter in his Rent journey, Pascal reprised the role one last time in 2009 alongside original castmate Anthony Rapp, who played Mark Cohen, in Rent: The Broadway Tour, which traveled through the United States, as well as Japan and South Korea.
Arriving in London in 2008, Pascal played the role of Freddie Trumper in the Tim Rice/Abba musical Chess alongside Josh Groban and his fellow Rent and Aida co-star Idina Menzel for two sold-out performances at Royal Albert Hall.
In 2018, Pascal returned to Broadway for a stint in the musical Pretty Woman, a role he then played on tour in 2020.
Performing in bands continues to be one of Pascal’s many passions. He has two solo CDs on Sh-K-Boom Records and an album with Rapp of their live Acoustically Speaking: 20 Years of Friendship—Live From Feinstein’s/54 Below concert.
Pascal isn’t leaving New York anytime soon. He can be found performing his music at 54 Below in New York City from August 30 through September 2.