note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Beverly Creasey
Jonathan Larson wanted desperately to write the “HAIR of the ‘90s.” So declares Larson’s alter ego in his penultimate musical, TICK, TICK..BOOM! (at New Repertory Theatre through Oct. 21st). He did just that, of course, with RENT, but died before knowing what a phenomenon it would become.
TICK, TICK..BOOM! is a must-see for RENT groupies and a fun-see for the rest of us, especially for Sondheim devotees who will find homage after clever homage to his idol in Larson’s mini-musical. TICK was originally a vehicle for Larson and a band but after the success of RENT, it was reworked into the three character version which electrifies the tiny black box theater at New Rep. Director/choreographer Stephen Nachamie’s production makes you keenly aware of Larson’s potential---and musical theater’s loss.
Nachamie gets high voltage performances from Guy Olivieri as the young composer with the “pre-midlife crisis,”---and from Aimee Doherty and Brian R. Robinson as girlfriend, best friend and everyone else in his life. The “everyone else” characters are hilarious, with transformations accomplished merely with a hat or a prop. Rock ‘n rollers will love the catchy “Green Green Dress (Me on You)” and wordsmiths will sigh over ingenious lyrics like “How can you score if you’re nailed to the floor?” or Larson’s literal upside down turn of a phrase like “wrong as rain.”
Most stories about creating art are resoundingly dull but Larson manages to ignite our spirit with his tale of perseverance in the face of adversity. Olivieri gives the composer a self-deprecating wink which wins us over from the get-go. We want him to get the girl, get the gig and make it to Broadway.
Joshua Finstein’s band rocks the Arsenal Center---but they never overpower the singers (which is apt to happen with RENT). Erik D. Diaz’ cityscape (happily, over the band, so we can see them) is the perfect setting for this quintessential New York City tale of success ---and tragedy.
The tick, tick, tick Larson was hearing, sadly, turned out to be his own biological clock. But TICK, TICK..BOOM! actually stops time--- for a short while, anyway.