Review Roundup: Encores! TICK, TICK... BOOM!
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr. and Karen Olivo star in the New York City Center Encores! Off-Center production of Jonathan Larson's Tick, Tick... BOOM!, running for five performances through June 28.
tick, tick... BOOM!, with book, music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson, script consultant by David Auburn and vocal arrangements and orchestrations by Stephen Oremus, is an autobiographical musical by the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning composer of Rent. First performed as a solo rock monologue by Larson in 1990, it is the story of an aspiring composer who questions his life choices on the eve of his thirtieth birthday.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Charles Isherwood, NY Times: So it goes in the New York of the new millennium, which might make "Tick, Tick ... Boom!" feel like a period piece. But as this immensely appealing production proves, Larson's songs thrum with the intense feeling, larky humor and musical vitality that are the hallmark of enduring theater. The show may seem to be speaking of another time and place, but it retains the heart-grabbing feeling of a story written yesterday, or today, or tomorrow. Any day, in fact, that a young man or woman wakes up in New York, sets aside anxiety and disappointment (and that stack of unpaid bills), and forges ahead with the soul-satisfying work of creating art that can enrich us all.
Joe Dziemianowicz, Daily News: The music in "Tick, Tick" offers modest pleasures and a series of conversational songs. It's interesting to see themes that became fully developed in "Rent." There are five musicians, and the expressive arrangements are by Stephen Oremus, who orchestrated the original production. Guided by director Oliver Butler, the three actors make the beautiful song "Johnny Can't Decide" a highlight. Each has something singular up their sleeves.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: Staged simply but ingeniously by Oliver Butler, with an energetic rock band on stage, "tick, tick...BOOM!" is a melancholy look at fading youth - but it also brilliantly evokes the thrill of new beginnings.
Jesse Green, Vulture: Thirteen years later, it's a natural for Encores! Off-Center, which is giving it top-drawer exposure in an emotionally vibrant production directed by Oliver Butler and starring Lin-Manuel Miranda as the songwriter, Karen Olivo as the girlfriend, and Leslie Odom Jr. as the roommate. It's no criticism of the series or the artists to say that the result reveals the show's faults as much as its promise. I call tick, tick... BOOM! an in-between case because Larson never had the chance to apply to it the mature storytelling discipline that might have allowed for a more robust narrative and sucked some of the narcissistic haze from the room. (Rent was a marked improvement.) And though Auburn was able to divvy up the songs sensibly enough, providing balance among the characters and a roof-rattling showstopper for Olivo in "Come to Your Senses," the underlying first-person architecture is still annoyingly evident.
Matt Windman, amNY: Casting actor-songwriter Miranda as Jon was an inspired choice. Even if his performance lacks in intensity, he offers a soft, sensitive and friendly presence. Olivo, Miranda's "In the Heights" co-star, brings out the fierce edge and confident sex appeal that have colored all her work.
Jeremy Gerard, Deadline: In a knockout bit of casting bliss, Lin-Manuel Miranda (In The Heights, the coming Hamilton) plays the central role of Jon. Karen Olivo, his co-star from In The Heights, and Leslie Odom Jr. play Susan and Michael, Jon's girlfriend and best friend, respectively. Miranda, who struggled somewhat in an earlier Encores!outing (Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along) is perfectly cast here, bringing warmth, humor and an irresistible quality of connection to a role clearly close to his own heart. (The audience on Wednesday night roared with support when a foul-up with his microphone stopped the show briefly and he returned with a line Pirandello couldn't have written better about the rehearsal going well in advance of a Thursday opening).
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus