BWW Reviews: TICK, TICK... BOOM at the Red Branch Theatre Company
TICK, TICK...BOOM is Jonathan Larson's story before he wrote Rent. Social issues, plotlines and melodic phrasing made famous in that rock opera are in formation here. It's simpler than Rent with its own quirky charm. The story is not new, but the performers are refreshing, and the real-life tragedy adds new meaning to the main character's obsession with his looming milestone birthday.
The time is 1990, the place is New York, and struggling theater composer Jon is about to turn 30. He's anxious about almost everything. Everything includes maintaining artistic integrity while dealing with creative obstacles, complex relationships, and hearing the real world knocking on his door. Patrick Prebula is thoroughly likeable as the neurotic, nerd-on-the-edge-of-cool. Jon's life, like the musical he can never get produced, is in limbo, and he imagines the ticking of time passing like the ticking of a bomb ready to blow.
Jon's best friend, Michael, has decided to grow up and go corporate. Luckily, Cory Jones applies such humor and energy to his character's compromise that it seems like a happy choice after all. Meanwhile, Jon's girlfriend, Susan, is hoping for something more than a tiny apartment in a city that tends to swallow you whole. Eben K. Logan also plays Karessa, the lead in Jon's rock musical. In that role, Logan brings down the rafters with the powerful solo, "Come to Your Senses."
Together, they have delightful chemistry and make the most of songs that range from forgettable to rocking. Director, Jennifer Spieler, and music director, Wil Lewis III, know how to stage the talented cast and integrate the music and production into a buoyant final product. At the turn of the century, joy bubbled up with anxiety over the future ahead. It's this emotional mixture that Larson excelled at creating and which seems to inspire the performances here.
One day before Rent opened on Broadway, Larson died at age 35 of an aortic aneurysm. The optimism displayed in this self-portrait like the hopefulness reverberating through Rent is a poignant reminder of a life cut short. Like Larson's characters, we may get the chance to learn that growing up doesn't mean giving up. And sometimes, like Larson himself, the best parts of us live on.
TICK,TICK...BOOM is playing through October 13th at The Red Branch Theatre Company located at 9130 Red Branch Road in Columbia, MD. For tickets call 410-932-9352 or go online www.redbranchtheatrecompany.com.