When Adam Pascal was first cast in Rent in 1994, it wasn’t because he was amazing singer. It was because he had an amazing voice. What he lacked in training and technique, he made up for in character embodiment. Basically, it was a fluke. He auditioned on a whim for a role that called for a gravelly voice and gravitas and it just so happened he was a rock singer with those exact qualities. The role stretched his range, with many critics pointing to vocal cracking, weak performance, etc., but was ultimately the trigger that sucked him fully into the world of musical theatre. (Okay, I’ll admit it, Rent was my trigger, too, or else I won’t be writing about it right now—What was yours?)
But Rent isn’t the focus here, it’s Chess. No, not chess the strategy game. (I’m not that kind of nerd). Chess the Tim Rice musical set during the Cold War that was popular on London’s West End in the late 80s, but bombed miserably on Broadway. It has not been revived. So how is it then, that I would get Adam Pascal’s version of mega-show-tune-power-ballad “Pity the Child” stuck in my head for an entire week?
Here’s what happened: Chess, over the years, has gathered a sort of cult following. In 2003 a hybrid of the London and Broadway versions was produced in concert to benefit the Actor’s Fund of America. That went well, so in 2008 PBS did it again. This time they took members of 2003 cast (which included Josh Groban and Adam Pascal) and added to that Idina Menzel and Kerry Ellis, then costumed them up, designed some actual lighting, and staged the whole thing at Royal Albert Hall. (I know, pretty good, right?)
And somewhere between Rent and the 2008 Chess special on PBS, perhaps during Aidia … Adam Pascal trained up. Okay, maybe he didn’t. But he improved. Ten fold. His voice went from shaky to commanding and his acting from semi-questionable to emotive. Don’t believe me? Try the video. Then you can have “Pity the Child” stuck in your head all day, too.