Tick, tick... BOOM!

Tick, tick... BOOM!

Infobox Musical
name= tick, tick... BOOM!

caption= Original Cast Recording
music= Jonathan Larson
lyrics= Jonathan Larson
book= Jonathan Larson
basis= Autobiographical
productions= 2001 Off-Broadway
2005 London

"tick, tick... BOOM!" is a musical written by American composer Jonathan Larson.

It tells the story of an aspiring composer named Jonathan (also referred to as Jon or Johnny) who lives in New York City in 1990. Jon is worried he has made the wrong career choice to be part of the performing arts. The story is autobiographical, as stated by Larson's father in the liner notes of the cast recording – Larson had been trying to establish himself in theatre since the early 1980s.

The show bears some similarities to "Company", written by Larson's idol Stephen Sondheim. For example, in "Company", Robert 'celebrates' his 35th birthday much in the way Jon celebrates his 30th, with both shows ending with the blowing out of candles and the cast singing "Happy Birthday to You".


"tick, tick...BOOM!" was originally produced Off-Off-Broadway in 1990 at the Second Stage Theatre and New York Theatre Workshop and The Village Gate (November 1991). [ http://www.rubicontheatre.org/05boom.php] It was performed as a "rock monologue" by Larson, a new form of theatre for the time. After Larson's death in 1996, producer Victoria Leacock asked David Auburn (author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Proof") to reconfigure the piece. He restructured the monologue into a three actor musical. [ [http://www.culturevulture.net/theater/TickTick.htm Tick, tick...BOOM! - Jonathan Larson ] ] One actor plays Jon throughout the show, but the actors playing Michael and Susan are responsible for all the other roles in the show. Also, the script and score were streamlined and edited.

A significant result of the original production, when Larson performed the show as a solo piece, was that it attracted the attention of a young producer named Jeffrey Seller, who became a fan of Larson's work. In 1995, he saw the NYTW production of Larson's musical "Rent" and convinced his fellow producers to bring it to Broadway.


;2001 Off-Broadway productionThe musical opened off-Broadway at the Jane Street Theater on May 23 2001 and closed on January 6, 2002. Directed by Scott Schwartz, with choreography by Christopher Gatelli, the cast featured Raúl Esparza as Jon, Jerry Dixon as Michael, and Amy Spanger as Susan. Molly Ringwald and Natascia Diaz replaced Amy Spanger as Susan and Joey McIntyre replaced Raúl Esparza as Jon.

The production received seven Drama Desk Award nominations, including Outstanding Musical, [ [http://www.playbill.com/news/article/69462.html Playbill News: James, Benanti, Pitre to Perform at Drama Desk Ceremony May 19; Tix on Sale ] ] and won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical; Esparza won an Obie Award for his performance.

The Original cast recording was released on September 11 2001, by RCA Victor Broadway (ASIN: B00005NQK5).

2003-2004 Pécs, Hungary
The Hungarian production opened on 23th July, 2003 on the open-air stage of Pécs, Hungary.(There was also a public rehearsal one day earlier.)
Director: Tamás Balikó (the director of the National Thatre of Pécs)Musical director/band leader: Zoltán Bókai (who has been also the musical director/band leader of Godspell in 2005, also in Pécs)
The cast: Attila Németh (who played himself the starting credits of 'Why' since he is a musician) as Jon, Lilla Polyák as Susan and István Fillár/Tamás Gregorovics as Michael. This version has been played only few times on open-air.

Starting the season, the whole production moved to the National Theatre of Pécs, where it opened on 4th November, 2003 with new cast members: Bernadett Tunyogi who replaced Lilla Polyák as Susan, and Attila Csengeri as Jon (they played the role with Attila Németh in turn).
[With the appearance of Attila Csengeri, the director has deleted the piano playing of Jon from that scene.]
The production closed on 26th February, 2004.
;2005 London production"tick, tick... BOOM!" opened on the West End in London at the Menier Chocolate Factory on May 31 2005, running until August 28th, 2005. Again directed by Scott Schwartz, the cast featured Neil Patrick Harris as Jon (later replaced by Christian Campbell), Tee Jaye as Michael, and Cassidy Janson as Susan. [ [http://www.musicomh.com/theatre/tick-tick.htm musicOMH.com Review of "Tick, Tick...Boom!" at the Menier Chocolate Factory] ]

;2005-06 California productionA California production opened at the Rubicon Theatre Company Ventura, California November 19, 2005 through December 18, 2005. Scott Schwartz directed, with a cast including Andrew Samonsky as Jon, Wilson Cruz as Michael and Natascia Diaz as Susan. The production moved to the Coronet Theater, West Hollywood, California, through July 16, 2006. [See "Variety", November 28, 2005 - December 4, 2005, Julio Martinez, "LEGIT REVIEWS" and "LA Weekly (California)", June 15, 2006]

;2005 Canadian productionA Toronto production was mounted by Acting Up Stage Theatre Company at the Poor Alex Theatre in 2005. The director was Mario D'Alimonte, with a cast featuring Dean Armstrong as Jon, Michael Dufays as Michael and Daphne Moens as Susan.

;2007 Danish productionA Danish production played in 2007, starring Mads Æbeløe Nielsen as Jon, Thomas Bay Pedersen as Michael and Christina Elisabeth Mørkøre as Susan, and directed by Jens Frausing.

A recording of the Danish production was released on April 23 2007.

;2008 Mexican productionStarring "Natalia Sosa" as Susan, "Marco Anthonio" as Jon and "Beto Torres" as Michael.

This production opened at Teatro Rafael Solana, February 20, 2008.


"Tick, Tick... BOOM!" opens to a dark stage; the only audio is a persistent ticking sound. Over this sound, Jon, the main character, introduces himself: “The sound you are hearing is not a technical problem. It is not a musical cue. It is not a joke. It is the sound of one man's mounting anxiety. I ... am that man.”

The audience learns that Jon is an aspiring composer for musical theatre who lives in SoHo, New York; and that he is nearing his thirtieth birthday. Jon expresses worries about his aging and lack of achievement (“30/90”). As he laments these issues, the audience meets Michael, a friend of Jon’s since childhood, and Susan, Jon’s girlfriend. Michael was an aspiring actor, but gave up acting to pursue a more lucrative career as a research executive. Susan is a dancer who supports herself teaching ballet to “wealthy and untalented children.”

“30/90” also introduces other conflicts. Susan and Jon discuss the upcoming 30th birthday party Susan is throwing for Jon. She pressures him to play “Happy Birthday to You” to himself on the piano at the party, but he is hesitant because it reminds him of the aging aspect of birthdays. Michael then asks Jon to allow him to schedule Jon an interview with Michael’s firm. Again, Jon is hesitant, but agrees to think it over.

Later, while on the roof of his apartment building, Jon reveals to the audience that he is also nervous about an upcoming workshop of his newest musical, "SUPERBIA." Susan comes to join him; he comments on her dress and how beautiful it makes her look (“Green Green Dress”).

The next morning, Jon is awake early. Susan greets him, and asks him about the possibility of leaving New York. Here, another conflict is revealed; Susan wants to raise a family and doesn’t view that as compatible with Jon’s “starving artist” lifestyle. Jon reflects on his dilemma of following his dream of composing, or opting for security and family in a different career. Meanwhile, the other two main characters recap their views on what Jon should do (“Johnny Can’t Decide”). Jon’s reverie, however, is cut short; he needs to report to his day job as a waiter in a SoHo diner (“Sunday”).

After work, Michael picks Jon up in his brand new BMW to show Jon his new apartment. Michael exults at the thought of a life of luxury (“No More”), and pressures Jon further to consider changing his career path. Frustrated, Jon finally agrees to accompany Michael to work the next day and visit a brainstorming session at his firm.

Back at home, Jon has phone conversations with his parents, and then with his agent. He plans to spend the remainder of the evening composing, but he is interrupted by a call from Susan, who wants to see him. This dilemma causes the couple to argue, albeit in a passive and psychological manner that scarcely seems like an argument at all (“Therapy”).

The next scene begins on Monday morning, with Jon walking to Michael’s office for his brainstorming session. On the way, Jon thinks back to a workshop in which his work was reviewed by a composer “so legendary his name may not be uttered aloud…” at this point the composer in question is referred to only as “St----- S-------.” He also worries about his musical style and its place on Broadway, but has little time to develop this train of thought before he arrives at Michael’s firm.

The brainstorming session involves naming a cooking fat substitute through a convoluted and inefficient “idea-generating” process. Jon sees the futility of the process, and his unwillingness to cooperate gets him removed from the meeting. Later, as Jon drives Michael to the airport for a business trip, they argue about the meeting. Michael tells Jon that the life Susan wants doesn’t sound bad, and that he wishes his job allowed him the chance to settle down (“Real Life”).

After dropping Michael off, Jon goes to a rehearsal for "SUPERBIA," but not before stopping to get a snack of Twinkies (“Sugar”). At the market, he spies Karessa Johnson, one of his actors for "SUPERBIA." She reveals a similar weakness for Twinkies, and this leads to a sudden friendship between the two. After the rehearsal, Susan sees Jon and Karessa walking together and becomes jealous. She informs Jon that she’s gotten a job in Northampton, Massachusetts which may be permanent. Jon and Susan argue about the state of their relationship; in a turnaround from the events leading up to “Therapy,” Jon begs Susan to stay and be with him. Despite this, she leaves for home, and Jon thinks about what may have happened to make her this way (“See Her Smile”).

The next morning, Jon arrives early at the theatre for the workshop of ‘’SUPERBIA.’’ Although initially the theatre is empty, soon it is filled with very important people: Jon’s family and friends, as well as Broadway producers and artists, including Jon’s idol, St----- S-------. Karessa steals the show with her performance of “Come to Your Senses,” a solo from "SUPERBIA." The workshop is a success, and Jon gets many congratulations. However, he is devastated; despite all the kind words, there are no offers to produce "SUPERBIA" on or off Broadway. Jon is no closer to being a professional composer, and so, in his eyes, the workshop has been a failure.

After the workshop, Jon visits Michael and tells him that he is through with music. For the first time, though, Michael tries to persuade him to stick with it. Michael says that while he enjoys how he makes a lot more money now than he did as a starving artist, he finds the job itself to be emotionally banal and unrewarding. The two argue, and Jon yells at Michael for not understanding fear or insecurity. Michael responds by telling Jon that he is HIV-positive, tacitly saying that he understands fear quite profoundly. Shocked at this news, Jon leaves quickly.

Distressed and alone, Jon wanders until he finds himself in the abandoned theater inside Belvedere Castle. He finds an old rehearsal piano, and begins to play it while collecting his thoughts. Jon ponders on whether the amount of sacrifice required for his career in music is worth it, and whether those telling him to “have it all, play the game” are right (“Why”). Ultimately, he realizes that he will only be happy as a professional composer, no matter what hardships that may bring.

The next morning is Jon’s thirtieth birthday party (“30/90 Reprise”). He first sees Susan, who is getting ready to leave. She gives him his birthday gift: a thousand sheets of blank manuscript paper. They agree to write to each other, and Susan leaves. Next Michael approaches, giving him a birthday gift of belts (Michael had identified having multiple belts as a sign of luxury earlier in the show). They reaffirm their friendship as the phone rings. The caller is St----- S-------, revealed now to be Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim. Sondheim leaves Jon his contact information so they can meet and discuss "SUPERBIA". Jon realizes that he is surrounded by friends and that his talents are finally being recognized. As he says, “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.” The three main characters sing that actions speak “Louder Than Words” as Jon sits down at his piano to play “Happy Birthday to You.” The play concludes with the rock-sounds of "30-90 Playout."

Musical numbers

*30/90 — Company
*Green Green Dress — Jonathan, Susan
*Johnny Can't Decide — Company
*Sunday — Company
*No More — Michael, Jonathan
*Therapy —Jonathan, Susan
*Times Square —
*Real Life — Company
*Sugar — Company
*See Her Smile — Company
*Superbia Intro —
*Come to Your Senses — Karessa
*Why — Jonathan
*30/90 Reprise —
*Louder Than Words — Company

Notes on the score

"Sunday", Jon's song at the diner, is based heavily on the Act I Finale from the Stephen Sondheim musical "Sunday in the Park with George"; Larson conceived it as a humorous homage to Sondheim, one of his largest influences. Another reference to Sondheim is present in the score of the song, "Why". Not only mentioning West Side Story in the lyrics, the song utilizes the same tritone made famous in the West Side song "Maria". On the cast recording there is an additional song cut from the final version of the show, "Boho Days". This track is one of the few recordings of Larson's voice publicly available. It was extracted from a demo tape recorded by Larson during the development of "tick, tick... BOOM!"


External links

* [http://www.lortel.org/LLA_archive/index.cfm?search_by=show&id=98 Lortel off-Broadway listing]
* [http://www.mtishows.com/show_home.asp?ID=000279 plot synopsis and other information at MTI Shows]
* [http://www.curtainup.com/ticktickboom.html Curtain Up review, 6/22/01]
* [http://americantheatrewing.org/downstagecenter/detail/raul_esparza/ Raul Esparza] - "Downstage Center" interview at American Theatre Wing.org, April 2005
* [http://www.myspace.com/ticktickboomuk West London Production Myspace Page]
* [http://www.jamiewainwright.co.uk/ Jamie Wainwright] "Jon", West London Production
* [http://ticktickboom.actingupstage.com/home/index.html Acting Up Stage Theatre Company Show Page]

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