Interview: L.A. Mars of TICK, TICK... BOOM! at Nutley Little Theatre

Running September 15th through 23rd.

By: Sep. 13, 2023
Interview: L.A. Mars of TICK, TICK... BOOM! at Nutley Little Theatre

Interview: L.A. Mars of TICK, TICK... BOOM! at Nutley Little Theatre

Nutley Little Theatre presents, “Tick, Tick… BOOM!,” by Jonathan Larson, directed by L.A. Mars with musical direction by Hannah Elarmo.

“Tick, Tick… BOOM!,” is the musical that paved the way for Rent. The show tells the story of an aspiring composer named Jon, who lives in New York City in 1990. In the moments before his 30th birthday, Jon worries that he has taken the wrong path in life.

The story is semi-autobiographical, and Larson began to perform the piece as a solo work in 1990. After his death, it was revised and revamped by playwright David Auburn and premiered Off-Broadway in 2001.

I had the opportunity of interviewing Director L.A. Mars.

Please tell us about yourself. 
Sure! I'm L.A. Mars, a nonbinary theatre director and stage manager. I use they/them pronouns. I grew up in North Carolina and New Jersey, and went to school at Drexel in Philly. I'm currently serving as Company Manager of Carolyn Dorfman Dance – a recent move, so don't expect this production of Tick, Tick... BOOM! to have aerial stunts or anything. I direct professional, indie, and community theatre, and I'm a member of SDC and A.R.T./New York. I'm thrilled to be returning to Nutley Little Theatre, this time to direct its first musical production in a while: Jonathan Larson's Tick, Tick... BOOM!

Please tell us about your involvement in theater.
I started in photography and film before transitioning into theatre, and that affects a lot of how I work – I tend to think in tableaus, or these specific moments that actors travel between. I also lean towards very intimate spaces – so Nutley Little Theatre is exactly my kind of space. There are 48 seats, and not one of them is bad, so it really pulls the audience in.

What inspired you to direct this piece?
Like so many theatre nerds of my generation, I grew up on Rent. It introduced me to musicals, to Spike Lee, to the queer community. In film school, you learn a lot about it because of Jon Larson's early death and the legal nightmare that he left behind. You don't hear much about Tick, tick... Or at least, you didn't until Lin-Manuel decided to change things. I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't realize Raúl is a music man until after watching Garfield in the role of Jon. After I saw the movie, I started listening to the original musical recording while working on another show at NLT, Perfect Arrangement. It felt so right in the space – and I guess the rest is history.

What do you want your audiences to take away from this show?
Jon Larson was a flawed man. In Tick, Tick... BOOM! he wrote about those flaws. I think there's something really poignant about this self-portrait of an artist. It's the story after the coming-of-age story. It talks about the in-between, and art, and fear. It talks about the AIDS crisis, which I know a lot of folks recently relived with COVID-19. I'd love for audiences to feel all of that, and then walk a little kinder in the world. I'd also love for them to have fun. I'm not known for particularly fun or uplifting work, so it'd be nice for a bit of a change.

Any upcoming projects you will be working on after this?
I serve as Co-Artistic Director of Wolfsmouth Players Company, so there's always something in the works. Unfortunately, nothing I can say for sure just yet – but anyone who likes my work can visit or for updates as they come. Y'know, for my troves of fans that I definitely have.

Anything additional you would like to add?

I owe a HUGE thank-you to, frankly, many people – but I'll keep it show-related for now. Thank you to Nutley Little Theatre's Board of Directors and Season Planning Committee, who let me put this show up with two phenomenal casts. Special thanks go out to my Musical Director, Hannah Elarmo, and my Stage Managers, Erin Sabat and Lisa Geerhart, without whom I'd be totally lost. Thank you to Mead Winters, who bought just about every Twinkie in our local Costco and donated them to the show. And, of course, thank you to all the folks in my personal life who have put up with my insane hours, living room choreography, and less-than-fantastic renditions of "Louder Than Words," for the past few months.

The cast:

Performance dates of Sept. 15th, 16th, 17th, 22nd, and 23rd (8pm performance) will be featuring Tom Kiely, Betty Mack, and Micheal Johnson.

Performance dates of Sept. 21st, and 23rd (the 2pm performance) will be featuring Niko Lento, Asuka Kimura, and Cooper Mendonssa.

The crew:

L.A. Mars, Director

Hannah Elarmo, Musical Director

Erin Sabat, Stage Manager

Lisa Geerhart, Stage Manager

Laura Anthony, Intimacy Coordinator

Set Design, Ciara Helber

Set Build, Alex Oleksij

Tickets are on sale now: Click Here

For more information check us out at and follow Nutley Little Theatre on Facebook: @NutleyLittleTheatre and Instagram: @NutleyLittleTheatreNJ for updates.

Photo credit: Mars in bookwork with Jordan Boatman and Sky Nelson for Effigy (2023). Photo by Erin Sabat.


Aspire Performing Arts Company Performs PUFFS Next Month Photo
Aspire Performing Arts Company Performs PUFFS Next Month

Aspire Performing Arts Company will present Puffs, Or: Seven Increasing Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic, on October 6 and 7 at Theater 180 in Montclair. Learn more about the upcoming show and how to get tickets here!

Eli Bolin Comes to SOPAC With Kara Lindsay, Christiane Noll, Charlie Pollock, and More Photo
Eli Bolin Comes to SOPAC With Kara Lindsay, Christiane Noll, Charlie Pollock, and More

The South Orange Performing Arts Center’s (SOPAC) popular Cabaret in the Loft series returns on Sunday, October 1 at 7PM with Emmy-nominated composer Eli Bolin’s group show Eli Bolin Has No Friends. Learn more about the upcoming performance and how to get tickets here!

CONSTANTINE MAROULIS LIVE! Announced At Sieminski Theater, October 14 Photo
CONSTANTINE MAROULIS LIVE! Announced At Sieminski Theater, October 14

CONSTANTINE MAROULIS, American Idol finalist and Tony Award nominee, brings his incredible talent to the Sieminski Theater for a special, intimate performance. From classic Sondheim to contemporary Wildhorn, rock jams from Rock of Ages, and his own original songs, Maroulis will captivate the audience with his unforgettable music. Don't miss this one-night-only event on October 14th at 7:30 p.m. Visit for tickets.

Tony Award Winner Dee Dee Bridgewater Kicks Off Moody Jazz Festival, November 3 Photo
Tony Award Winner Dee Dee Bridgewater Kicks Off Moody Jazz Festival, November 3

Two of today's biggest voices join forces for one-night only on the NJPAC stage as part of the 12th annual TD James Moody Jazz Festival. Legendary jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater pairs up with brilliant pianist Bill Charlap (West Orange, New Jersey) in an evening of jazz standards and American classics from the duo's vast repertoire. 

From This Author - Gina Sarno

Gina M. Sarno has been enamored with theatre since before she can remember. Her love for theatre has driven her to experience almost every aspect of the theatrical world ranging from acting onstage, w... Gina Sarno">(read more about this author)


#repshow# in[i]# Bulrusher
McCarter Theatre Center (9/13-10/07)Tracker
#repshow# in[i]# Waiting for Godot
The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (9/13-10/01)Tracker
#repshow# in[i]# She Kills Monster
Playhouse 22 (2/09-2/25)
#repshow# in[i]# Steel Magnolias
Playhouse 22 (4/12-4/28)
#repshow# in[i]# Star Wars: Return of the Jedi in Concert
Count Basie Center for the Arts (4/05-4/05)
#repshow# in[i]# Schumann’s Cello Concerto
Count Basie Center for the Arts (10/21-10/21)
#repshow# in[i]# New Jersey Ballet: The Sleeping Beauty
Bergen Performing Arts Center (4/21-4/21)
#repshow# in[i]# Lost in Yokers
Pioneer Productions (10/27-11/05)
#repshow# in[i]# The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Algonquin Arts Theatre (10/07-10/22)
#repshow# in[i]# Star Wars: Return of the Jedi in Concert
Mayo Performing Arts Center (4/04-4/04)

Recommended For You