Review: In TICK, TICK…BOOM! Midlife Crisis, Oozing Talent Are Inescapable

9 Works Theatrical restages Jonathan Larson’s semi-autobiographical musical ‘tick, tick…BOOM!’ until Sept. 3, 2023.

By: Aug. 18, 2023
Review: In TICK, TICK…BOOM! Midlife Crisis, Oozing Talent Are Inescapable

Midlife Crisis is Inevitable.

Jon (Jef Flores, Khalil Ramos), the protagonist in Jonathan Larson's “tick, tick.... BOOM!” is a struggling composer who is days away from turning 30. He can’t help but hear that internal clock clicking: he doesn’t want to turn a year older without something groundbreaking to show. His girlfriend, Susan (Kayla Rivera, Tanya Manalang), wants to leave New York to start a family and establish a more stable career in the suburbs. Adding to the pressure is his best friend and ex-theater buddy, Michael (Vien King, Reb Atadero), who convinces him to join the marketing industry instead and lead a more comfortable life.

Performance-wise, Flores assumed the role almost seven years ago (2016). Though impressive, he was younger, and his interpretation of the character was caricature-like and far from what he has given in this production. His portrayal of Jon, this time, resonates better with the milestone anxiety-ridden generation and to any age as well.

On the other hand, Ramos, a television and film actor, just made his professional theater debut in this production, and he was a revelation. The material is not ideal for someone making a debut—not leaving the stage for over 1.5 hours, acting, singing, and dancing-- but he pulls it off. He profoundly transforms into Jon, and there’s this nonverbal chemistry in each scene with his co-stars, especially with Rivera and King.

Rivera is another reason why theatergoers should watch this production.  She enters the stage with an impact, explicitly wearing that green cocktail dress, which speaks powerfully about her character. She acts and renders dramatically as an unhappy fiancée, and it’s a delight to witness the actress singing and dancing in multiple characters and costume changes.

In his early scenes, seeing King as Michael, a homosexual, lying on the bed is quite a “gay statement.” His effortless gestures are both convincing and moving.  For his portrayal of the other support characters, his multiple interpretations, and costume transitions, King gives a “fab statement.”

Manalang, who also played Susan years ago, provides more depth in telling her story— but she’s a new Susan now. Her Susan, who may be a composite of several women Larson dated during his lifetime, had genuine moments with Jon. One could feel the intimacy between Larson and his longtime girlfriend and real-life dancer Janet Charleston.

Atadero brings the house down with his versatility as Michael and his approaches to additional multiple roles.  Notably, behold the inclusivity and racial representations in the characters he has created.

Review: In TICK, TICK…BOOM! Midlife Crisis, Oozing Talent Are Inescapable
Jef Flores (Jon) and Reb Atadero (Michael)

Creative Minds Collide.

In this latest staging, director Robbie Guevara is at his best.

He does not just allow his actors to do their job: to breathe life into the characters; he also gives the audience what they enjoyed a lot about in the recent Netflix stage-to-film adaptation of “tick, tick…BOOM!,” complete with a real-life set and set pieces by scenographer Mio Infante. As theatergoers enter the auditorium, they're invited to come into Jon's world through Larson's lenses. Infante’s main set depicts a typically cramped '90s New York apartment in SoHo (South of Houston Street), a neighborhood in Lower Manhattan. (As the play progresses, when Jon’s ultimate dream crumbles, the audience is in for a unique treat.)

Additionally, the organic blocking pushes the storytelling and interprets a scene’s subtexts. Susan/Karessa Johnson's signature musical number, “Come to Your Senses,” a scene in the workshop smoothly transitions to Jon's New York City apartment. From there, Susan and Jon sort out their difficulties, one of the show’s highlights. It’s Guevara's (directing) approach to motivate his actors and co-creatives for a superb performance and amazing theater experience.

Not to be missed are the quick costume and wig changes that magically paint images distinctively and figuratively for the actors. Responsible for the New Yorker vibe and color is Myrene Santos, who heads the hair and makeup with her team of stylists, Sabrina Alora and MC Tolentino. Ian Cartalaba makes sure all actors are in style with his period costume choices.

Musical director Daniel Bartolome and his band are phenomenal with their music playing. Their cameo appearance in the workshop adds thrill to that scene. JM Cabling gracefully and interpretatively maximizes the stage area during the occasional dancing throughout the show. While lighting designer Shakira Villa-Symes and sound designer Bam Tiongson perfectly blend to achieve the right mood and groove.

(Here’s a word of advice: Avoid the first few seats on the left orchestra side because the sound coming out from the speakers on this side is too blaring—irritating sometimes.)

9 Works Theatrical’s restaging of Larson’s “tick,tick…BOOM!” has been extended until the first Sunday of September, Sept. 3. It plays at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City.—with additional words by Gilbert Kim Sancha and Oliver Oliveros.

Photos: Reine Bantang


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