Emilia Di Luca
“The ‘tick, tick, booms’ are softer now. I can barely hear them, and I think, if I play loud enough, I can drown them out completely,” concludes Jonathan Larson in his autobiographical musical, tick, tick… BOOM!
While these words are true of Larson’s journey to success as a composer, they defy this musical’s very nature. In fact, playwright Jonathan Larson and director Tim French aim to thrill their audience with “tick, tick, booms” – the moments that build suspense and thrust energy into the audience.
With this production of tick, tick… BOOM!, Angelwalk Theatre pumps life into Larson’s musical journey, leading up to his Broadway hit, Rent. Larson originally wrote tick, tick… BOOM! as a one-man rock musical, but script consultant David Auburn revised the piece by adding the voices of Larson’s girlfriend, Susan (Laura Mae Nason) and his best friend Michael (Ken Chamberland).
With these supporting characters, Jon Larson (Parris Greaves) explores the struggle of composing the next Broadway hit before turning the dreaded 3-0. Only after a series of life lessons does Jon write the inspiring musical he desires.
Alanna McConnell’s set design provides a quiet backdrop for Larson’s punchy musical. To begin, the space fades into darkness with a faint ticking. When lights go up, the two-story stage, framed with grey industrial stairs, places the audience in a shaggy New York apartment. The small, simple stage anchors the presence of the small cast.
Nason and Chamberland display their theatrical range through a creative use of character doubling. For example, while Nason portrays Rosa, Jon’s agent, throughout the play, in her last appearance, Rosa is surprisingly portrayed by Chamberland. Chamberland’s rough, smoky voice throws audiences from their comfort zones. Tick, tick … BOOM! INDEED!
Campy musical meets dull diner in the musical rendition of Jon’s lackluster day job. The cast performs an eccentric cheery song with perfectly synced choreography in plain dreary uniforms – white apron, white hat (designed by Michelle Tracey). They dance with silver trays and miserable frowns plastered on their faces. The tension explodes with energy and the audience explodes with laughter – boom!
The play ends with a subtler “boom” as Jon scribbles away on paper and the lyrics to “tick, tick… BOOM!” which hang around the set and light up. This production certainly presents the audience with more “tick, tick, booms” than “tick, tick, tocks.” The booming echoes of the audience’s laughter and cast’s singing are a testament to Angelwalk’s performance.
tick, tick…BOOM! plays at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, 5040 Yong Street, Toronto, from September 21 to October 6.
Tickets are available online at www.angelwalk.ca or by phone at 416-733-9388.