How do you measure a great Broadway run? Maybe by talking to one of its stars! If you haven’t heard, after 10 years on the Great White Way, legendary rock musical Rent will play its final show this Sunday. Yelp’s own Sam P sat down for a chat with Anthony Rapp, who created the role of Mark Cohen in the Off-Broadway, Broadway, and film versions of Rent, for a chat about cheap haircuts, pre-show rituals, and living La Vie Bohéme…
SP: So where did you live when you first moved to the City?
AR: I was in and out of the city for shows my whole childhood, but I first moved here for real to go to NYU, so I lived on Washington Square Park. When I left there, I moved to the East Village on 10th Street and 1st Avenue.
SP: And what were some of your favorite haunts around there?
AR: Believe it or not, I actually hung out at The Life Cafe quite a lot — I mean, it was right there! There was also a bar on 10th between A & B called The Crow that had an awesome ’80s night; I’m a child of the ’80s. I think that closed though and the night moved to Pyramid Club.
SP: Living there must have been great inspiration for Rent — did you guys hang out down there much as a cast?
AR: Well, before we got to Broadway, when the show was at The New York Theater Workshop on East 4th, we were down there all the time. We’d have lunch at Cafe Orlin, and there’s Winebar right there on 2nd Avenue; we were there a lot..
SP: What about when you moved to Broadway? Any spots in the theater district where you could go to avoid the tourists?
AR: We’d head over to 9th Ave for lunch to get away from Times Square, but back then it was nothing like it is now! Honestly, after a show we were so exhausted we just wanted to go home!
SP: That show must have taken a lot of energy! Any pre-show rituals? Double-shot of espresso? Tequila? Yoga? What got you ready to rock?
AR: I’m not much of a coffee drinker, so definitely not espresso! We started doing a lot of yoga at the theater to get warmed up, but I’ve totally stopped now. I took these amazing classes at a place called Yoga Tree that I don’t think is around anymore. And at the Crunch on Lafayette.
SP: Rent had such a particular (and much imitated) sense of style. Where would you go to get a Mark stripey scarf or Mimi’s turquoise pants.
AR: You know, those pants were actually Daphne [Rubin-Vega]’s! I’m pretty sure she got them at Patricia Fields. My sweater in the show was made my Free People – I’m pretty sure they got it for me at Urban Outfitters – then when the show got popular and got to Broadway, they had to buy them all up for replacements!
SP: That must have bummed out a lot of Rent-heads! So where do you live now?
AR: NoHo – so basically the East Village North.
SP: What are your go-to spots around there?
AR: My favorite restaurant is Five Points. I love Temple Bar – it’s the perfect place to just sit and catch up with friends or take out-of-towners. It’s quiet but in a good way. And my new favorite is Gemma in The Bowery Hotel – that place is fantastic! Also, Corner Shop on Bleecker and Broadway. Mostly I love to just wander around the neighborhood and explore new places.
SP: Sounds like you’d make a great yelper, then, Anthony! Any tips for young starving artists moving to the city looking to save a buck? Cheap haircuts? Lunch deals?
AR: For a cheap haircut, you’ve gotta go to Astor Place Hair. They’ve got all those great Eastern European barbers. I remember Avenue A Japanese was always a good deal for lunch.
For more of Anthony’s tales, check out his book: Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and the Musical Rent