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‘Rent’ Boys Men Now

Worry about knees.

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Eleven years ago, the musical Rent made stars out of twentysomethings Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal and forever linked them to that squat-filled, polysexual, Alphabet City version of La Bohème that seemed so utterly, tragically of the moment. Rapp and Pascal are reprising their roles beginning July 30 in a musical that’s become as much a period piece as the opera that inspired it. Nobody takes only AZT anymore, and starving artists live in other boroughs, if not other cities. Some changes are for the better. “The show definitely loses some of its resonance because of the fact that teenagers today don’t know a society where lots of people are dying of AIDS,” says Pascal. “But given the choice, I would certainly have fewer people dying of AIDS, and fewer kids connecting to Rent.” Pascal says he took the part because he’d been planning to record an album here this summer anyway. Rapp signed on when he did. But aren’t they too old? “My first job on Broadway was playing the schoolteacher’s kid in The King and I with Yul Brynner,” said Rapp. “So I’ve always had that cautionary tale in my head— I don’t want to be like Yul, 70 years old and still playing Mark. But Jonathan Larson was 35 when he died, and he and his friends were still living a very Rent kind of lifestyle. I’m 35, but I don’t feel old.” Pascal is just hoping his knees hold out when they have to jump up on the table every night.

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