Saturday, November 12, 2016

Review of "tick, tick...BOOM!"

Before Jonathan Larson wrote the score and book of the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning musical Rent, he conceived a one-man show entitled tick, tick…BOOM!  This autobiographical tale is receiving a vibrant and inspiring production Off-Broadway at the Acorn Theatre through December 18th. 

Since Larson’s death, the show has been expanded to three characters—Larson; his girlfriend, Susan; and best friend, Michael.  The story centers on his upcoming 30th birthday and how this milestone impacts him personally and professionally.  It is a fact-based narrative by a struggling artist, during the dawn of the AIDS epidemic, who believed in himself and his work as he attempted to find his niche in the world. By broadening the original concept to multiple performers playwright David Auburn gives the production more depth and allows a fuller telling of the artist’s story.

George Salazar, Nick Blaemire, and Ciara Renée in Jonathan Larson's "tick, tick...BOOM!"

The songs Larson wrote, performed by a four-piece band on stage, include raucous rockers and heartfelt ballads.  They speak to his personal experiences, relationships, and angst in trying to change the American musical theater.  The musical numbers are performed with passion and zest by the trio of actors.  The raw emotions infused in Larson’s compositions ring true and foreshadow some of his output for Rent.

The group of performers work well as a small ensemble.  They are led by Nick Blaemire as Jonathan Larson.   He gives an edgy performance tinged with hope as well as despair.  The pain and helplessness he feels is so prevalent among individuals trying to make it in “the business” that his vulnerabilities and despondencies resonate with authenticity.  Ciara Renee as Larson’s girlfriend, Susan, is radiant in her “Green Green Dress.”  She possesses a dynamic voice and convincingly sways from supportive soul mate to, finally, a woman who needs to be faithful to her own goals and aspirations.  George Salazar as the composer’s best friend, Michael, gives a multi-faceted performance in both sickness and in health.  He is, at times the comic foil and at other moments a lecturing, sobering big brother. 
George Salazar, Nick Blamire, and Ciara Renee in Jonathan Larson's "tick, tick...BOOM!"
Director Jonathan Silverstein, keeps the actors fast afoot as, sometimes, they literally bound off the minimally arrayed set, which includes few props with piano center stage.  He keeps the focus on Blaemire, as Larson, with the other characters revolving around his sphere of creative energy.  The director is also able to dramatize the powerful determination and dreams inherent in all hungry, aspiring performers. 

tick, tick…BOOM! An entertaining and tuneful show in an intimate environ.  A must for Jonathan Larson fans. 

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