tick, tick…BOOM! is the autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson, the composer of Rent.
Rent opened on January 25th 1996 – the day Jonathan Larson tragically died from a dissected aorta. It was a ground-breaking musical in its day and it earned Larson three posthumous Tony Awards and a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for Drama. While Larson knew that Rent was about to open, he never knew how it would be received by the critics or the ongoing fan-base.
When Jonathan Larson wrote tick, tick … BOOM! he could not have imagined what would unfold in the years ahead – and that makes this an intriguing story to watch. It gives an insight into the mind of a composer, trying to make it on Broadway, trying to follow his dream, trying to stay true to himself, but at the same time, watching his family and friends “succeeding” in life – earning good money, driving fancy cars and living in fancy homes, all with the feeling of ticking time bomb as Larson approached the impending age of 30. Watching the story unfold, I couldn’t help but wonder if the tick, tick … BOOM! Larson was experiencing was in fact his heart. Was it prophetic or was he experiencing some warning symptoms? Either way, it’s hard not to watch with a sad sense of poignancy.
Directed by Tyran Parke, the production brings to life this autobiography, revealing all the angst and fears of a young composer trying to write that one big musical that would give him the break he needed to succeed on Broadway. The staging is simple but effective, keeping the focus on the story-telling, and suits the intimacy of the Comedy Theatre.
Hugh Sheridan is excellent as Jonathan (Jon) Larson. It’s a demanding role and Sheridan’s acting pedigree is evident. Jon is a is likeable character, despite the nervous angst. The audience wants him to succeed. Vocally, Sheridan is stretched to the end of his range at times. And yet, I’ve heard many composers perform their own works as they attempt to get their music out to an audience and be heard – and most of the time, they are capable, but not the greatest singers. Instead, what they have is passion, and Sheridan plays this role with passion. Indeed, very few Broadway composers ever take to the stage to sing their own material. In that way, there is a sense of authenticity in Sheridan’s portrayal of composer Jonathan Larson.
Elena Rokobaro is superb as Susan, who is searching the safety of a more secure and stable job outside of New York, pulling at Jon’s dream to become a Broadway composer. Rokobaro shines in her performance of ‘Come to your Senses,’ showcasing her vocal talent to a rousing reception from the audience.
Finn Alexander gives a strong performance as Larson’s friend Michael. Michael has given up his acting dream for a well-paying corporate job. His confident and successful character is a stark contrast to that of Jon. The sense of giving up your dreams makes his character somewhat unlikeable, but when his personal truth is revealed, there were audible, empathetic gasps from the audience.
Rounding out the cast are Sheridan Adams and Hamish Johnston, who expertly move through a range of supporting roles.
Rent was Jonathan Larson’s legacy to the theatre world and the one by which he will be remembered. tick, tick…BOOM! is a rare opportunity for fans of Larson’s work to appreciate the years of hard work, stress and self-doubt that ultimately resulted in the much-loved work Rent. It’s a must see for any fans of Rent to truly appreciate the mind of its composer.
Storeyboard Entertainment presents tick, tick…BOOM!
Comedy Theatre, Melbourne 1 – 12 February 2023
QPAC Playhouse, Brisbane 1 – 5 March 2023
Lyric Theatre, Sydney 20 – 23 April 2023
For further information and tickets visit: ticktickboomthemusical.com.au
Photo credit: Jeff Busby