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Tick, Tick ... BOOM!

a Musical
by Jonathan Larsen

COMPANY : Alliance Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Woodruff Art Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 1384

SHOWING : September 07, 2005 - October 02, 2005



"Rent" Creator Jonathan Larsen shows us a bit of himself in this biographical musical about turning 30 before you've achieved your dreams.

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Songs of Youth and Experience
by Dedalus
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
It’s impossible to watch Jonathan Larson’s TICK, TICK … BOOM without the reality of Mr. Larson’s early death coloring how we react. The play is, after all, the “Rent” author’s autobiographical We-Don’t-Last-Forever-and Mortality-Is-Staring-Me-In-The-Face meditation on Life and Art and Dreams and Compromises. Of course, Mr. Larson’s early death is going to add a cast of melancholic irony to all.

It’s also impossible to watch this play from the vantage of 50-odd years of life without realizing it is a young person’s theme. The final moving anthem, “Louder Than Words,” has a recurring chorus of “Cages or Wings, Which do you prefer?” -- a cry to seize your dreams while you still can. It is a young idealist’s oversimplification of the choices we all face at every milestone. The reality, of course, is that not all compromises are “cages” and realizing a dream can come with its own unseen cages. But, damn, it feels good to hear, to remember, to realize that, even at 50 there is still the option to seize the dream.

I’m part of that minority of musical theatre fans who was not overwhelmed by “Rent.” I found the characters shallow, the plotting shallow, and the songs relatively forgettable. (It may be that a saw a tired Road Show Production – I’m willing to give the movie a fair hearing next month.) But, I fell in love with the music of “Tick, Tick … Boom!” over a year ago, responding to the idealism, the theatrical in-jokes, and the passion that I found missing in “Rent.” And, in this case, many of the songs are impossible to get out of my head.

The production on Alliance’s Hertz stage is everything I wanted it to be – funny, sad, filled with energy and life, and peopled by three young actors who hit every note (musical and otherwise) absolutely right.
Matthew Scott plays Jonathan as an imperfect young New Yorker, confiding in the audience, confessing shortcomings, celebrating victories, and sharing dreams. Soara-Joye Ross and Dwayne Scott play all the other roles, primarily Jonathan’s Best Friend Michael and Girlfriend Susan.

Director Kent Gash stages the whole thing in a fast-paced 90-minute party that produces enough energy to light the south. I especially liked the Sondheim parody “Sunday” and the “Movin’-On-Up” celebration “No More.” Unfortunately, the design puts the audience on three sides, but the staging only focuses on the front group – this is really unfair to half the audience. On the plus side, those of us on the side did get to experience the more dramatic songs (“Come to your Senses” and “Why”) with side-lighting rather than front-lighting. This gives them an emotional weight that is missing from the purely front-lit songs seen by the preferred Center Section. Still, three-sided design calls for an entirely different blocking paradigm than straight proscenium and, the effect we see is an apparent disconnect between design and realization.

Fortunately, the sheer energy of the cast is able to carry the show, even to the sides. And, it is not a small feat to make youthful idealism resonate with a jaded old cynic like me.

-- Brad Rudy (

by Mercutio121687
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Last night I ventured into the sublevels of the Woodruff Arts Complext to the Alliance Theatre's Hertz stage. As the neon sign for the theatre drew closer, my excitedment mounted. I was going to see 'Tick...Tick...Boom!' I had read about it, I had listened to the cast recording and I had learned everything I could about the show. Still, I was not expecting what I saw last night. As you enter the theatre, you see the set (beautifully designed and very well constructed, as always with the Alliance) and hear ambient noises of New York City. It made me anticipate my November trip to the city even more!

Finally, the show started, and I scooted to the edge of my chair, and would end up staying there for the rest of the show. The cast was unbelievable. Matthew Scott perfectly captured the frustration, the stubborn optimism and the charm of Jon's character, and his voice was great. I hope to see more of him in the future. As Susan, Soara-Joye Ross was wonderful. A magnificent actress with a phenomenal voice, her "Come To Your Senses" was one of the most memorable moments of the show. Michael was played by Dwayne Clark, a veteran of two Rent tours. I had high expectations after reading his credits, and they were lived up to tenfold. The audience could sense his mounting fear and feel his pain, and he shined through some very difficult scenes.

The highlights of the show for me were "Johnny Can't Decide," "Come To Your Senses," "No More," "Why," and "Louder than Words."

Every time I see a Kent Gash show it further proves to me that the man is an absolute genius. He took what was already a strong piece of theatre and found new moments, opportunities for humor and interpretive tricks that continue to wow me as I sit here the next morning, still affected by the splendor of this production, of one of the best shows I've seen in a long time.



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