Review: tick, tick…BOOM! (Angelwalk Theatre and Newface Entertainment)

Tic, Tic... Boom

Toronto’s Angelwalk Theatre kicks off their season with tick, tick…Boom!, the emotionally driven autobiographical musical by Rent creator Jonathan Larson

Angelwalk Theatre opened their season on Wednesday evening with tick,tick…BOOM!, an autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson, who famously wrote Rent.

I find that modern musicals can be kind of hit or miss for me. I’ve seen some that I’ve absolutely loved right from the first number and I’ve seen others that I just haven’t connected with. At first I thought that tick, tick…BOOM! was going to fall into the miss category.

The first two numbers just didn’t touch me in any way. I found myself thinking that the music sounded generic, as if I’d heard it before in other musicals. Not that I could tell you which musicals I thought I’d heard it in.

And then…BOOM! With the third number I was hooked.

There are only three actors in the show, all of whom gave terrific performances; Parris Greaves as Jon, Ken Chamberland as Michael – his best friend, and Laura Mae Nason as Susan – his girlfriend. Even so it sometimes felt as if there was a cast of thousands – well maybe not exactly thousands but lots.

Chamberland and Nason played multiple characters who made short appearances in the play. The sense of a lot of people in busy spaces was produced with recorded sound. It worked really well.

tick, tick…BOOM! was originally written by Larson as a one-person musical. It’s the story of a promising composer who is about to turn 30 and is questioning the choices he’s made. It was written before he wrote Rent. After his death it was revamped to a three person show.

I hadn’t read anything about the show before I saw it so I didn’t know that it was originally a solo piece. During the evening I kept thinking that the way that Jon narrated the action and back story felt like a one- person show. It was very effective. I love one-person autobiographical shows and with this I got the bonus of music and two other actors.

The show was at times funny, at times serious, and very touching – especially the last third. I was definitely not the only person crying: so was the woman next to me and the man in front of me–and there was a lot of nose blowing in the washroom after the show. Although I knew in a vague way that Larson had died I didn’t remember the specifics. Thank goodness. I would have been a sobbing mess rather than just sniffling.

I thoroughly enjoyed tick, tick…BOOM! It’s well worth seeing.

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Photo: Ken Chamberland, Parris Greaves, Laura Mae Nason – photo by Vincent Perri