Similar to its beginnings as a one-man show, tick, tick... BOOM! is largely a composer named Jon telling us his story in monologue and song. In this updated version, we also hear from his girlfriend Susan, his buddy Michael, and various other characters. Approaching his 30th birthday, Jon is having an early mid-life crisis. He hasn't had a big hit yet, and is wondering if he should continue pursuing his dream of musical theater, or give up and get a more steady job like Michael, the marketing exec. Everything seems to hinge on the upcoming workshop for his musical Superbia; he's hoping it turns into something more. At the same time, Susan starts to talk about leaving NYC and starting a family away from the hubbub of the city. Finally, Michael confesses that he's sick with an unspecified illness (but he's a gay man in 1990 NYC so it's not hard to guess). But like the characters in RENT, Jon manages to find the joy amidst the pain and confusion of life. No day but today.
While tick, tick... BOOM! is for the most part a fun and joyful musical, there's a tinge of sadness knowing that this aspiring artist who dreamed of writing the HAIR of the '90s, of bringing rock music to Broadway, of being a success on Broadway, would eventually do all of those things, but not live to see it.
tick, tick... BOOM! is a precursor to RENT in many ways and shares some similar themes and devices, including starving artists who live in a walk-up apartment with no doorman so you have to "throw down the key," a friend who has sold out and entered the corporate world, phone calls and voice messages from well-meaning parents, AIDS and mortality, the importance friendship and community, and NYC as a character. It's as if the world of tick, tick... BOOM! was expanded on, dramatized, and filled out to become the world of RENT.
The score of tick, tick... BOOM! also feels RENT-ish, from driving rock songs to poignant ballads. Larson included several musical theater references, most notably in the song "Sunday," a clever parody of a song from his idol Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George, only set in a diner with annoying customers.
|Katie O'Halloran, Matt Tatone, and Daniel Greco
(photo courtesy of Minneapolis Musical Theatre)
tick, tick... BOOM! plays Friday and Saturday nights at 7 through the end of October at Bryant Lake Bowl. Doors open at 6 and full food and beverage service is provided in the theater, so get there early and make it a rock musical dinner theater night.