note: entire contents copyright 2010 by Janine de Souza
Time. It’s a funny thing. You can watch a show a couple of times without it “speaking” to you and then TICK, TICK…BOOM!, the next time it explodes, resonates, sticks to your ribs and finally sinks in. That’s exactly what happened to me on opening night of TICK, TICK…BOOM! at the Turtle Lane Playhouse in Newton. The beauty of TICK, TICK…BOOM! is that the audience gets a sneak peek and front row seat into Jonathan Larson’s psyche. Unfortunately, time was not on Larson’s side. He died unexpectedly at the age of 36 before RENT, his ultimate masterpiece, took Broadway, critics, and the masses by storm. TICK, TICK…BOOM! is RENT’s poignant predecessor. This show is a flash-freezed musical portrait of the famous composer, a struggling artist then, desperately trying to maintain his authenticity, self-expression, and sanity before his 30th birthday approaches. As a fan of Larson’s work, it was nice to get inside this guy’s head for 90 glorious minutes.
Deftly directed by Mark Usher, TICK, TICK…BOOM! begins at Larson’s rundown NYC apartment. Despondent and clearly dreading his 30th, Jon (Kevin Cirone) sits at his piano comptemplating his life, his future, and his lack of any Broadway success. Enter Susan (Shonna McEachern), his well-meaning “let’s get the hell out of here for a better life” girlfriend. The trio is rounded out by Jon’s best friend, Michael (Josh Nunes) who has traded in his acting skills for a white collar career with a view and an uptown apartment to match. You can proverbially hear the clock ticking as Jon weighs his options: keep composing and forging ahead or quit and take a number in the concrete jungle rat race. It’s a dilemma that all artists face at some point in their careers. With Larson’s insightful lyrics such as “How can you soar when you’re nailed to the floor?” and “How do you know when it’s time to let go?” from the song “Johnny Can’t Decide”, the audience gets a clear sense of his inner turmoil. He ponders whether he is really talented enough to join of the ranks of his idol, Stephen Sondheim, or if the “big break” really will come. Cirone milks every song for what it is worth and works the stage like a caged animal. Behind him, the score springs to life under the direction of Emma Boroson and her talented musicians. But all is not utterly somber in Gotham City. Jon and Susan share some hilariously light moments in “Green Green Dress” and “Sugar”. Additionally, McEachern and Nunes seamlessly assume multiple roles throughout the show, clearly showing their acting prowess. Luckily for us, Jonathon Larson didn’t let go of his dream and he went on to pioneer a new form of theater that has become the norm today.
TICK, TICK…BOOM! Time is really running out so be sure that you get to the Turtle Lane Playhouse. The show is currently running from October ! - 9.