Almost 30 years ago, Adam Pascal auditioned for an off-Broadway musical on a whim. He ended up originating the role of Roger, an HIV-positive songwriter-musician, in the original 1996 cast of Jonathan Larson’s groundbreaking musical Rent.
Adam, 51, would go on to play Roger in the original London cast and reprise the role for the 2005 movie. His theatrical career also includes starring roles in Aida, Cabaret, Chicago, Memphis and more.
“Because of Rent, I’ve had a really wonderful career,” Adam, a divorced father of two sons, tells Closer. “I’m so proud and so grateful.”
he Tony-nominated performer is currently starring as Edward Lewis in the U.S. national tour of Pretty Woman: The Musical.
“I’ve been having an incredible time,” says Adam, who shares the stage with Olivia Valli, the granddaughter of the Four Seasons’ Frankie Valli, as Vivian.
It’s been nearly 25 years since you first starred in Rent. Do you look back on those early days fondly?
Oh, yes, absolutely. And I’m constantly reminded of them. We went to a cabaret the other night, and one of the songs the performers did was Rent’s “La Vie Bohème.” The whole place was up on their feet, singing and dancing. Honestly, I just couldn’t help but get emotional. I’m part of this thing that is now such a part of history and is beloved by so many people. It took me right back to being in the rehearsal room, learning that song.
You have played Roger so many times. Have you always felt connected to the character?
My connection with the character never really came from an actor-y kind of place, because I wasn’t an actor. I never felt like I was playing another person. I was just being me in a different situation. I happened to have shared some of the more downtrodden characteristics of Roger, so finding that character was not difficult.
When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a rock musician. From the time I was 10 years old. As soon as I discovered rock music and I discovered that I could sing, that’s all I ever wanted to do. I wanted to be a rock star. I wanted to be Bono or Jon Bon Jovi. You’ve put out two albums of rock music.
Can we expect more?
No, that’s not my path anymore. I perform live all the time, but in a different way. It’s not like big rock band stuff. At some point, you’ve got to let go of those dreams; I let go a long time ago. I’m so grateful that I ended up on the path that I am on instead of that path, because I feel like this is much more where I belong.
What are some of the other favorite roles you’ve played on stage?
I loved Huey Calhoun in Memphis. And I love the Emcee in Cabaret. Those were definitely highlights — and Shakespeare in Something Rotten. I’ve been incredibly fortunate in that there are no artistic duds in my career.
How are you enjoying touring with Pretty Woman: The Musical?
It’s been great. I did a couple of weeks on Broadway as a guest star when the actor playing the role had to step away for a bit. Now, I’ve had such an incredible experience on the tour, finding my version of this character in the world that my leading lady, Olivia Valli, and I have created.
In what way is the touring show different from the Broadway version?
The tone of the show is different. It’s a much more fun, lighter, happier show. There’s just a really great chemistry among all of us. The response from the audience has been really, really fantastic, too. I think it’s a lot more fun on tour than it was on Broadway.
How is your Edward different from the character that Richard Gere played in the movie Pretty Woman?
I think he’s a little more lighthearted, a little less dark. A lot of that has to do with me and Olivia. The broad strokes are still the same, but the interpersonal connection between the two characters is different. Pretty Woman is such a beloved film.
Do you feel pressure to live up to it?
I’ve never felt that kind of pressure. The way I’ve always felt about being in any show is that I’m going to do my best. I can’t help it if you don’t like the show. I just hope you don’t walk away not liking me! I am all about the team and the ship, but I can only control myself. If people walk out thinking, ‘He was good,’ then I am happy with that!
You have two sons. How important is fatherhood to you?
I didn’t have a father figure. I had a father and stepfather, both of whom combined didn’t amount to one decent father figure. So it is very important to me, and it will always be important to me, to be the best dad I can be. And I see how important it is to them, because we’re so close.
Is either of them interested in music or performing?
They both love music. When you’re surrounded by it and you have a parent in show business, it’s hard to not be attracted. My oldest son, Lennon, is sort of a multiinstrumentalist and plays a lot of different things. My youngest son, Monte, is getting into singing — which is pretty cool!
Would you be worried if they decided to pursue performing professionally?
It’s an exciting life, but it’s also an incredibly difficult, soul-crushing life, which I try to emphasize by saying, ‘Please don’t go into show business.’ But at a certain point, people are going to make their own decisions. If that’s where their lives take them, then I can only be as supportive and helpful as I can be.
What do you like to do for fun?
I love to go out to restaurants to eat and drink wine. I try not to eat too much pizza!
Do you have any secret talents?
I don’t know if I would call it a talent, necessarily, but I’m a pretty good cook. I have a decent home. I fix it with my carpentry skills. I’m actually a very domestic person. I know how to take care of a household, and I know how to take care of the people in my life. Those are the things that are important to me.