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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

tick, tick ... BOOM! (Comedy Theatre) - 90 minutes without interval

Updated: Feb 8, 2023

Jonathan Larson wrote the smash hit Broadway musical Rent. How he got there involved pain and persistence. That’s the subject of tick, tick … Boom!

Living in New York, Jon (Hugh Sheridan) dreams of being a Broadway musical writer.

His creativity is recognised by his close and loyal friends, but he is on the cusp of 30 and he hasn’t made it yet. The way he sees it, time is running out.

After all, his musical theatre crush Stephen Sondheim was only 27 when he had his first Broadway success.

Jon is perpetually short of money and works in a diner to try to make ends meet.

His best friend, Michael (Finn Alexander), whom he met when they were eight, gave up acting to pursue a lucrative corporate life.

Photos by Jeff Busby

He’s bought an apartment and has a flash car.

Michael is urging Jon to consider joining him.

Jon resists his advances, because for the past five years he has been writing what he hopes will get him his big break – the futuristic Superbia.

But he is missing a key number in the second act and it is less than a week until he is due to workshop the musical.

He and his girlfriend Susan (Elenoa Rokobaro) have been like ships in the night of late.

She is keen to move away from the Big Smoke and start anew, something he is not willing to contemplate, but when – if ever – will his big break come?

With book, music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson, this is his semi-autobiographical story – one of angst and hope. Let’s face it, for much of the musical, Jon is a nervous wreck, but still he remains driven by the lure of the grease paint.

The story arc develops through a combination of the spoken word and the musical numbers.

Although Hugh Sheridan does most of the heavy lifting, for me it was Elenoa Rokobaro who stole the show with her powerhouse vocals.

Finn Alexander, too, had his moments to shine vocally.

Having seen the movie based on the musical – directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda and starring Andrew Garfield – two years ago, which I thought was excellent, I must say while I enjoyed this production, I didn’t love it.

An hour and a half without interval, I wasn’t totally engaged.

The film had more poignancy, so I think it is an advantage if you are seeing the musical not to have seen the movie.

Interestingly, the music didn’t speak to me in the stage production the same way it did in the film.

The staging is spartan – just a small platform, some metal furniture without tops (which does come together impressively for the final number) and a few chairs. That could have been stepped up.

The five-piece band – stage left and right – is terrific.

Opening night saw two humorous, unscripted moments, which went down a treat.

One involved Hugh Sheridan confusing his character’s name with that of his best mate. Sheridan handled that with suitable amusement and aplomb.

The other concerned Finn Alexander missing one of the arms on his suit jacket when he went to put it on. Again, he and Sheridan carried on seamlessly.

So, tick, tick … BOOM! the musical certainly has merit, but doesn’t lift the roof off.

Directed by Tyran Parke, it is playing at Comedy Theatre in Melbourne until 12th February.

Next stop is QPAC Playhouse Brisbane from 1st to 5th March, before appearing at Sydney Lyric Theatre from 20th to 26th April, 2023.


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