Tick, Tick…BOOM Review – The Long Wait

Samantha M. Lawrence, Phillip J. Lewis, and Ernesto Figueroa in TICK, TICK...BOOM! - Photo by Kayte Deioma
Spread the love

One of only three produced musicals by Jonathan Larson, TICK, TICK…BOOM is an autobiographical show originally designed for one performer, a piano, and a backup band. First performed off-Broadway in 2001, six years after Larson’s death in 1995, TICK, TICK…BOOM was reworked from a solo show into a stage musical by playwright David Auburn. Larson was inspired by rock legends in his youth, stars like the Beatles and Elton John, as well as his mentor Stephen Sondheim. But Larson is best known for his rock musical “Rent,” which debuted off-Broadway and quickly moved to Broadway in 1996. “Rent” ran on Broadway for 12 years and received the Pulitzer Prize for drama and three Tony Award (including Best Musical) – all awarded posthumously. Larsen died the night before the premiere of “Rent” from an aortic aneurysm which was probably related to undiagnosed Marfan’s Syndrome.

Ernesto Figueroa and Samantha M. Lawrence – Photo by Kayte Deioma

In fact, Larson’s life was probably as intriguing as any play to hit Broadway (or the silver screen, for that matter). Born in 1960 and raised in a middle class Jewish family, Larson graduated from college and moved into a starving artist’s haven in lower Manhattan. In fact, he lived and died in that loft with no heat on the fifth floor of 508 Greenwich Street. He spent years surrounded by poor, often drug-addicted, frequently HIV patients who lived their unheralded lives on the fringes of society. But, despite all odds, Larson remained devoted to his dream of creating beautiful music, Larson watched his friends move on to richer, better lives while he stayed where he was. This conflicted life style formed the basis for TICK, TICK…BOOM, as well as his well-known rock musical “Rent,” almost a tribute to those cast-offs and misfits from society with whom he shared so many years.

Samantha M. Lawrence, Phillip J. Lewis, and Ernesto Figueroa – Photo by Kayte Deioma

The time is 1990, and the place is New York City. TICK, TICK…BOOM tells Larson’s story, a story marked by the gradual loss of his friends as they grow older and re-join a society which he had rejected – and probably began to morph into his parents and the shakers-and-movers of his day. This is a funny, moving, autobiographical work about an aspiring composer who wants to write the Great American Musical as life slowly passes him by. And as his best friend and girlfriend join the ranks of the upwardly mobile. Waiting tables at the Moondance Diner, Larson holds true to his goal – and hopes that his hard work on his newest baby, “Superbia,” will cement his musical genius – before his looming thirtieth birthday. After all, there would soon be a reading before an audience – a reading that might make or break his resolve to wait it out until his work was finally produced.

Ernesto Figueroa and Phillip J. Lewis- Photo by Kayte Deioma

Larson titled the play himself, which could well tell his story of waiting, waiting, waiting. Or, as he defined “tick,” becoming more and more anxious. This reviewer thought that it might also have been more prescient – his heart continued to beat – until BOOM, it stopped a few years later. In any case, this is a fascinating study of a possessed man who won’t give up, who continues to pursue his dream despite adversity. A man who constantly must deal with making the big decision – to give up or keep going. Helmed by skilled artistic director Kari Hayter, TICK, TICK…BOOM has three very talented actors/vocalists singing their hearts out. Energy and passion abound as Jon (Ernesto Figueroa), girlfriend Susan (Samantha M. Lawrence), and best friend Michael (Phillip J. Lewis) make life-changing decisions. Not only does the autobiographical show detail the internal life of a man with a dream, but it also shares laughter and tears with the audience. It is also intriguing to compare Larson’s musical with his other two produced musicals “Superbia” (written before) and “Rent” (written after), demonstrating his evolution as a composer.

Phillip J. Lewis, Ernesto Figueroa, and Samantha M. Lawrence – Photo by Kayte Deioma

TICK, TICK…BOOM runs through March 5, 2023, with performances at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The International City Theatre is located in the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center, 330 East Seaside Way, Long Beach, CA 90802. Tickets are $49 (Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays) and $52 (Sundays). For information and reservations, call 562-436-4610 or go online.


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.