How Do You Measure Adam Pascal’s Appearance on the Wantagh Stage?


Delaney Skelton, Features Editor

It’s not every day one gets to meet a celebrity, much less spend hours with him, work with him, and even get to perform on stage next to him, but on September 19 the students in Wantagh Theatre—myself included—did just that. After spending the whole summer fundraising $7,000 to pay for him to come and workshop with us, we spent September, and some of August, planning and rehearsing for a concert to perform with Adam Pascal and other schools on Long Island. 

Pascal is known for his role as Roger in Jonathan Larson’s Broadway rock musical, Rent. He also recently played William Shakespeare in the Tony Award-winning musical Something Rotten!. This year the Wantagh Theatre department is putting on its very own rendition of Rent, and what better way to prepare for the musical than workshopping with one of the original Broadway actors?

We had around 3-4 weeks to prepare from our first rehearsal to the day of Pascal’s visit. Directed by Mrs. Naughton, head of our theatre department, we decided to focus on two of the musical’s group-heavy numbers, the titular “Rent” and the vibracious “La Vie Bohème,” while also progressing through rehearsal as normal. 

My personal favorite is “Rent,” a high-energy rock song where the characters Mark (played by WHS sophomore Gabriel Gruz) and Roger (played by senior John Sileo) lament over how they can’t afford to pay rent for the year, and eventually decide that they’re going to rebel against their landlord Benny (played by senior James Degnan) and not pay any rent at all.

Amidst running these two numbers over and over, and rehearsing our way through the rest of the musical chronologically, the weeks passed by until the day of Pascal’s visit came. The Wantagh Theatre department buzzed with energy the day of, as we all arrived in the auditorium at 7 am for our full-day field trip. We’d be spending over 12 hours there, rehearsing, workshopping, and performing at the concert that night. The excitement of the group was unimaginable.

Once we all had arrived, our choreographer Eleanor Breen, a WHS junior, led us through a series of stretches to prepare for the long day ahead of us, and we got right down to work.

We had a few hours until Pascal arrived, and we spent that time fixing our choreography and running through what we already knew to prepare to impress. The  day was tinged with a nervous energy, excitement at meeting a celebrity and an inspiration for many of us, and showing him what we’ve been working on all this time. By the time Pascal came, the nervous energy we’d spent while rehearsing came back in full force, and we went through it all one more time with the eyes of a professional on us.

He helped us fix the choreography of our opening number, and then worked on the song “Light My Candle” with Sileo and senior Kyra Orgass, playing Mimi, helping them with character work and moving around the stage during the song.

The climax of our rehearsal time with him, however, came when Sileo performed one of the more emotional numbers, “One Song Glory,” which is a solo song for Roger. In it, Roger, who recently found out he has AIDS, expresses his wish to write one song that becomes well-known before he dies from AIDS, so that he doesn’t die without making an impact on the world. It’s a very vocally straining song, and fast-paced rock like most of the musical, despite its heavy content. 

Sileo performed in front of the whole cast, Mrs. Naughton, the crew members with us, and Adam Pascal. And by the end of it, all eyes were on Pascal, waiting to see his reaction. The auditorium was quiet, and then Pascal said, “I’m actually crying right now.”

We all exhaled, some of us laughing, as Sileo came off stage and gave Pascal a hug. It was a touching moment for everyone, and it left us all in good spirits for the concert later that night.