by Matt Smith
“What am I doing here? Why am I doing this show?”
Such is the question posed by a loose, relaxed and casually dressed Adam Pascal at the start of Stories and Songs… So Far, his seemingly self-explanatory — and surprisingly intimate — new solo show, which recently played The Green Room 42 and is set to tour venues across the country throughout the Fall.
Sitting coolly atop a barstool, clutching a uniquely shaped silent guitar (“when it’s not plugged in, it has no resonance”), he offers his response.
And the answer, as he first relays to us directly, and then we subsequently see the “why” manifest itself through his thoughtful approach to the material, is a simple one: it’s a gift to us, just because, as he mainly “aims to please.”
While most performers might divert from an evening consisting solely of “greatest hits” from their career, Pascal here contrarily appeases his fans, offering a complete rundown of his résumé, from his humble beginning to a more humbler end (or at least, for now, his most recent Main Stem gig).
With passes at early Adam staples like Rent and Aida, right through to more recent fare, such as Something Rotten! and Pretty Woman, and even a sampling from the London concert version of Chess in which he appeared, the set list alone makes for an enjoyable evening, tailor-made for the most diehard Pascal fans.
But with that said, it’s the artist’s edgy punk rock twist on the selection, aided by the accompaniment from just a single acoustic guitar, that gives them their heart — and through this revamped, stripped-down presentation (and the stories that accompany each number), you can really see and hear how the songs affected him personally.
To that end, singular to this particular set of shows, though, is the spontaneous question-and-answer section, in which house lights come up and anything goes. While obviously the highlight of seeing Pascal — or any artist in cabaret — perform is to take in their stories and songs, it’s this unique addition to the evening that really shows us who he is, as he casually dishes on dreams roles — and ones he’s passed on and why — shares the secret to his longtime friendship with “lovable oddball” Idina Menzel, and divulges his true feelings about the recent onslaught of ”live TV musical events.”
He’s just being himself, making no apologies, throwing around a few S-bombs, and even twice burping mid-speech without a thought to whom he may offend. He’s energetic and lively in speech, while at the same time, remaining mellow and subdued in song — and it’s equal parts refreshing and fascinating to watch.
But, of course, as is often the case with cabaret shows just as these, while it seems on the surface to be a musical overview of his career, the songs are arranged in such a way to show that they collectively — and perhaps, obviously — hold a deeper meaning.
The evening is a journey in the fullest sense of the word… sure it tells us the literal story of his career… but it chronicles the ups and downs, missteps and maturation, and most importantly, what he learned about himself as a result along the way, all summed up in his thoughtfully chosen encore — that ALW classic, “Memory” — wherein its singer looks back on the events of his or her past, and, in a sense, evaluates the person they’ve become, for better or worse.
It’s a brilliant exemplification of Pascal’s personal transformation — a life-altering metamorphosis from “serious rocker” badass to established, respectable Broadway name; he understands he’s reached a sort of catharsis, and by sharing his experiences with us throughout this evening, we find, in a way, we have, too.
“I’m so glad that [rockstar life] never happened for me, and that I never went down that road, because then, I never would’ve gotten to go down this road,” he explains, at a point near the end of the evening. “I love what I do. I love doing theatre, and I love connecting with people on that way. I truly believe, even if I couldn’t see it then, that the right things happened for the right reasons. And that’s led me to where I am today.”
As for what’s next? Who knows? Anything is possible… and, as he knows full well, the slate is clean for the future ahead. A new day has begun.
Photos Courtesy of Rich Aronstein
Adam Pascal: Stories and Songs… So Far played The Green Room 42 at the Yotel (570 Tenth Avenue at 42nd Street) on July 18th and will continue at various venues across the country throughout the Fall.
For more information, visit www.thegreenroom42.com, and keep an eye out for news of where Pascal will pop up next.