BWW Review: TICK, TICK... BOOM! at ArtSpace presented by Acting Against Cancer
Tick, Tick... BOOM
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Jonathan Larson
Directed by Jordan Price
Review by Taylor Clemons
Entire contents copyright © 2017 Taylor Clemons. All rights reserved.
To my delight, the little known gem Tick, Tick... BOOM! has made it's way back to Louisville in a wonderful production directed by Jordan Price as the final show in Acting Against Cancer's 2016 - 2017 season.
Acting Against Cancer's 2016-17 season is coming to a close, and it makes sense that their finale take place in their newly christened black box theater in ArtSpace. The show itself has a fascinating history. Autobiographical. to many people, Tick, Tick... BOOM! is known by many as the "other" Jonathan Larson musical, which sorta checks out. As opposed to Rent, Tick, Tick... had a modest 7 month run Off-Broadway in 2001 (playing through and after 9/11). It has since become somewhat of a cult classic, held sacred to Jonathan Larson devotees and Rent fans alike. The show was revived Off-Broadway the Keen Company in the fall of 2016 for a limited 6 week run that turned into 10 weeks. The lore behind the musical is quite fascinating. When Jonathan Larson passed away the show wasn't exactly complete. By complete, I mean polished and ready for an audience. Piecing together whatever they could, Tick, Tick... was born.
My thoughts on the show itself are actually quite scattered, as is the written material. While watching the show, it's very evident that it never really got to be the final product Jonathan Larson may or may not have been aiming. Funny enough, that incomplete feeling almost adds to the show's edgy feel, and definitely to it's obscurity. The show centers on Jon (Kyle Braun), a young promising composer going through somewhat of a pre-midlife crisis as his 30th birthday approaches. Along for the ride, we meet Michael (Michael Detmer), Jon's best friend and past roommate, along with Susan (Deborah Mae Hilll), Jon's girlfriend. It's worth noting that while Braun is always Jon, Hill and Detmer play an array of characters in addition to their main roles as Jon's closest companions. Throughout the story we learn about their relationships, set to the background of the late 90s as Jon is preparing for a workshop of his new original rock musical musical.
The cast is very strong, and you can tell that all three of these actors have a strong rapport and respect for one another. Kyle Braun, does the audience the biggest favor by bringing Jonathan Larson to life. Little is known about Larson, but the show and Braun's acting choices really flesh out the person in which the role is based. He leads the show like a workhorse, never; never missing a beat, and in fantastic voice. Deborah Mae Hill was an absolute delight as Susan. Her voice soars in group numbers, but is the object of envy to any actresses in the audience during her solo numbers. She lets loose and unleashes everything she has in solo that comes late in the show titled "Come to Your Senses" (while performing not as Susan, but as another woman in Jon's life). Michael Detmer has fantastic chemistry with Braun. While holding his own in the group numbers, and the funny duet "No More" with John, he particularly shines in his book scenes. I must give a shout out to Music Director Gayle King for leading a kick ass 4 piece band.
I feel for any director who is staging a musical in AAC's new back box at ArtSpace. Lets not make any mistake, it's extremely small. However, with capable direction, a small space can elevate a show to it's potential and beyond.It just so happens that for Tick, Tick... Jordan Price's direction was way more than capable, and at times downright inspired. The simplistic approach to the material was very wise. He creates many different settings using only what is onstage (two chairs, a piano, a small table, and a love seat). With the different uses of these few items, the audience is successfully tricked into feeling the show is bigger than it is.
The show itself serves as a great companion piece to the massive phenomenon that was/is Rent. While it easily stands on its own, you can't help but notice the disjointed nature of the show, and wonder what it could've been if Jonathan Larson had had a chance to complete it. With a stellar cast and production, you would be crazy to miss this rarely produced "other" Larson musical.
Tick, Tick... BOOM!
Now - June 4, 2017
Acting Against Cancer at ArtSpace
323 W. Broadway
Louisville, KY 40202