The first time I heard the soundtrack to Jonathan Larson’s tick, tick… BOOM! I was 18 years old and thrilled at the prospect of another Rent. Introduced by a friend, I instantly fell in love with the melodies and striking harmonies. 10 years later, starring down the barrel of 30, alarmingly the themes of the show now resonate far too closely to home! “Why can’t you stay 29, hell you still feel like you’re 22!”
Indeed, to society as a whole, it’s somewhat concerning just how relevant this production is for modern audiences “If we don’t wake up, and shake up the nation, we’ll leave the dust of the world wondering, why?”.
Produced by Katy Lipson and currently playing at the Park Theatre under the direction of Bronagh Lagan, tick, tick… BOOM! is the story of an aspiring musician set in downtown New York. While still politically and socially aware, the show is a contrast to the rallying bohemian cry of Larson’s better-known work RENT, dealing with issues of personal success and failure and the ways in which we define these terms with respect to life’s milestones. Loosely autobiographical, Jon (Chris Jenkins) is a composer who dreams of writing a new rock musical, however as his 30th birthday approaches, he begins to question his career and his dreams. His best friend, portrayed by Jordan Shaw, has walked away from the artistic industry and his girlfriend Susan (Gillian Saker) is pressuring him to settle down. The clock is ticking. Is it time to grow up? Or worse, time to give up?
Musically the production is fantastic! From the wailing rock guitars to the delicate piano numbers the score is delivered with passion and prowess. At times it is certainly reminiscent of Rent, particularly the song ‘No More’ which resembles the title number of the aforementioned show but ironically is the antithesis of Rent in terms of its lyrics. A vocally demanding piece, and not one that should be performed quietly, the levels need to be arranged in a way that the performers are not competing with the orchestrations. Fingers crossed this was just a blip for tonight that will be resolved for the rest of the run as it would be a shame to undermine the complexity of the harmonies.
Chris Jenkins is exceptional in the lead role of Jonathan. The perfect depiction of ‘grown-up bohemian’, he brings a genuine enthusiasm and passion to the role which makes it impossible not to engage with him instantly. His performance of ‘See Her Smile’ was an unquestionable highlight for me with raw emotion abounding. The vulnerability demonstrated by Jenkins during Gillian Saker’s ‘Come to Your Senses’ and later during his performance of ‘Why’ shows a sincere connection to both character and the piece as a whole, exhibiting an honesty that is enthralling.
Jordan Shaw’s Michael provides a welcome comic relief throughout the piece yet also delivers some of the hardest hitting and most sombre moments of the production. His stunning and flawless vocals are showcased throughout but really hit their peak during the larger numbers involving all three. The same can be said of Gillian Saker during the ensemble numbers. Both Shaw and Saker show considerable versatility and adaptability slipping between smaller roles throughout the production, most notably so in the Sondheim-inspired number ‘Sunday’.
From the subtle homage to the Moondance Diner to the ‘life support’ fridge magnets, Park Theatre’s tick, tick… BOOM! has all the heart that a Larson fan could ask for. Fuelled by the hopes and dreams of those in the industry, but with a grounding dose of reality, the piece ends with a poignant question – “cages or wings, which do you prefer?”
This production certainly has wings.
Review by Cassandra Griffin
Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment and Joe C Brown in association with Park Theatre present
tick, tick… BOOM!
Book, Music and Lyrics by Jonathan Larson
Directed by Bronagh Lagan
Before Rent, there was tick, tick… BOOM!
An aspiring composer questions his life choices on the eve of his thirtieth birthday in Jonathan Larson’s autobiographical rock musical. The Pulitzer Prize and Tony award-winner tells the story of the sacrifices he made to achieve his big break in theatre.
His girlfriend wants to get married and move out of the city, his best friend is making big bucks on Madison Avenue and yet Jon is still waiting on tables and trying to write the great American musical. Set in 1990, this compelling story of personal discovery embraces the ideal of holding onto your dreams through life’s most difficult challenges.
Containing fourteen songs, ten characters, three actors and a band, tick, tick… BOOM! takes you on the journey that led to a Broadway blockbuster.
Performed by arrangement with Music Theatre International (Europe) Limited.
CHRIS JENKINS – JONATHAN
GILLIAN SAKER – SUSAN
JORDAN SHAW – MICHAEL
PRODUCER – KATY LIPSON FOR ARIA ENTERTAINMENT
PRODUCER – JOE C BROWN
DIRECTOR – BRONAGH LAGAN
MUSICAL DIRECTOR – GARETH BRETHERTON
SET AND COSTUME DESIGNER – NIK CORRALL
LIGHTING DESIGNER – BEN ROGERS
CHOREOGRAPHER – CHRIS CUMING
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR – SAM RAYNER
Running to 27th May 2017