Tick Tick Boom, a Triangle Productions presentation at the Sanctuary 1785 NE Sandy, through September 27, is an autobiographical musical by Jonathon Larson. It is set in 1990. It takes place in the days leading up to Mr. Larson’s thirtieth birthday. The tick tick is the clock in his head that reminds him that he is now older than his father was when he was born, that many others, including Napoleon, had accomplished great things before they were 30, that his great plans had not come to fruition, that his life was tick tick ticking away with his dreams unrealized.
Mr. Larson first performed the piece as a one man play called “Boho Days” on September 6, 1990, two days after his own thirtieth birthday. The tick tick turned out to be more than sophomorically mordant. A little over five years later Jonathon Larson dropped dead.. Our knowledge of Mr. Larson’s premature death colors the viewing of this play. In the year after his death on January 25, 1996 his dramatic musical “Rent” moved from Off Broadway to Broadway. It swept the Tony Awards garnering him posthumous awards for best Musical, best Book, and best Score. On Broadway “Rent” ran for twelve years. It has been produced all over the world and made into a movie. Jonathon Larson was also posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
Tick Tick Boom was developed into a three person musical by Victoria Leacock and David Auburn in 2001. Victoria Leacock was Mr. Larson’s friend and lover who in 1989 produced a concert version of his work “Supurbia,” it was a rock and roll updating of George Orwell’s 1984. She also produced productions of Boho Days at the Village Gate in Greenwich Village and the Second Stage Theater on the New York’s Upper West Side. Boho Days was written as a reaction to the disappointment of “Supurbia” not being fully mounted as a play. Tick Tick Boom also features Jonathon’s troubled relationship with Victoria and his troubled relationship with his long time friend Matthew O;Grady.
There is no curtain at at the Sanctuary. The clever set never changes. It consists of a bed, with a keyboard on a desk in front of it, at downstage right. At stage left two Eames chairs come in for versatile use. They become the front seats of a BMW automobile. They are chairs in a boardroom. They are chairs in a diner. Part of the set are four musicians. Upstage right is the musical director Jonathon Quesenberry at a keyboard. To his left is the guitarist David Cole. Playing electric bass is W.A. Fletcher Nemeth. Upstage left is the drummer William James Norris-York.
In this production Jon is played by Drew Haren. He works very hard from beginning to end and is never off stage. All of Drew’s costume changes are on stage in plain view. His monologues carry the plot along. He also sings, by himself, or with the others, twelve of the thirteen songs in the show. He has a good voice and is well up to the songs challenges. The show is ninety minutes with no intermission.
The role of Michael, based on Matthew O’Grady, is played by James Sharinghousen. Mr. Sharinghousen has an open face and an affable manner. He also has a nice singing voice.
The role of Susan, based on Victoria Leacock, is played by Danielle Purdy. She also doubles in the part of Caressa in the show within the show of the one performance of “Supurbia.” Her one solo song is in the part of Caressa. It is the power ballad “Come to Your Senses.” She also sings the songs “Green Dress” and “Therapy” with Jon and also sings on five other ensemble songs. Her voice is up the task.
The show is well directed by Don Horn. It moves smartly along and is well choreographed and staged.
The best part of the production is the band. They are never off stage and also contribute dialogue in a couple of scenes. Led by Mr. Quesenberry they played with gusto and appeared to be enjoying their work. They got as much as they could out of the score. Most of the songs start slow and build to a climax in standard Power Ballad style. The audience I saw the show with on Saturday 9/6 rose to their feet in applause at the end.
Drew Harper Jon
Danielle Purdy Susan
James Sharinghousen Michael
Jonathon Quesenberry Keyboard
William James Norris-York Drums/Percussion
David Cole Guitar
W.A. Fletcher Nemeth Bass
Jonathon Larson Book, Music, Lyrics
Don Horn Direction
Sara Martins Choreography
Jonathon Quesenberry Musical Direction
David Auburn Script Consultant
Stephen Oremus Vocal Arrangements & Orchestrations
Originally Produced off-Broaday in June, 2001 by
Victoria Leacock, Robyn Goodman, Dede Harris, Lorie Cowen Levy, Beth Smith