BWW Review: Poignant and Powerful TICK, TICK...BOOM! at Spotlighters Theatre

If there ever was a musical to be presented on the tiny stage of the Spotlighters Theatre, TICK, TICK...BOOM! Is it. All you need is three accomplished actors who can sing, act, and dance and a talented four piece band and you are all set. Thankfully, it's all here!

This is the last show of Spotlighters' 45th season and it could not end on a better note. I first recall seeing TTB at the old Axis Theater on Clipper Mill Road many years ago. I enjoyed the music so much, I bought the CD of the Off-Broadway production which starred Raoul Esparza, Amy Spanger, and Jerry Dixon. I just love the music written before the tragic death of Jonathan Larson in 1996 at the age of 35 just as his hit musical RENT was about to premiere. It was done at City Center Encores in June 2014 with Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom, Jr. (both Tony winners from HAMILTON), and Karen Olivo (IN THE HEIGHTS).

Larson wrote TICK, TICK...BOOM! before RENT. Initially it was a solo rock monologue in 1990 but thankfully writer David Auburn (PROOF) turned it into a three-actor piece that debuted in 2001 Off-Broadway.

It's an autobiographical musical about Larson's quest to become a musical theater composer and the angst that goes with attempting to create art that includes frustration, humility, and the quest to succeed.

Director Jillian Locklear Bauersfeld chose the musical to direct for her college senior thesis and her thoughts in the program amplify the reasons she loves this show. She writes, "As I dug my way through the piece I thought I knew everything that this show had to offer - great music, passionate characters, and a story that everyone NEEDED to hear." But she goes on...there so much more.

She does an amazing job directing three talented actors who give this show the spark and life it requires.

Playing the role of the author, Jon, is Garrett Zink. On opening night, Zink seemed to have a hoarse voice. Maybe it was just jitters. But it didn't take him long to inhabit his character and sing his heart out.

Playing his love interest Susan (and various other roles) is Clare Kneebone who I enjoyed thoroughly in the Spotlighters' wonderful production of ZOMBIE PROM. She nails her part. She, like Jon, is a frustrated artist (dancer) but seems so much more secure about her future and decides to take the leap from teaching ballet to "wealthy and untalented children" to fleeing New York for a chance to perform in Massachusetts. She has a superb voice. Wait till you hear her solo "Come to Your Senses".

Playing Jon's roommate and boyhood friend Michael is Rob Wall who leaves his hope of acting for a security and money to become a market research executive with an apartment that matches his high salary and his BMW. Wall does a commendable job in this role as well as others. He's fun to watch.

The center of the story involves a musical called SUPERBIA that Jon has been working on for five years. While he waits for a workshop of the show to get presented, he waits tables just as the composer did at the Moondance Diner in the Village. There's a great homage to Stephen Sondheim's "Sunday" from SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE about diners having brunch. There are also Sondheim lyrics to WEST SIDE STORY included in the lovely ballad "Why". One of my favorite numbers is "Johnny Can't Decide".

Much of the enjoyment goes to the great pit band under the direction of Michael Tan (also on Keyboards), Christine Macdonald on Guitar, Greg Bell on Bass, and William Georg. I was worried that a loud rock band would overwhelm the production but thanks to great sound by Lanoree Blake and Fuzz Roark, one hears each and every lyric.

There is effective lighting by Roark, vintage costumes by Andrew Malone, and Set Design by Alan Zemla.

There is some fabulous music here and I highly recommend the CD before you see the show.

This a show that must be seen if you are a fan of RENT. You will hear some similarities.

There is also much humor. Wait till you see the scene when Jon goes to buy some Twinkies at a store and finds Karessa. I note there even was an article about this famous sponge cake in the Baltimore Sun on July 9.

The most memorable and sad comment is stated by Jon when talking about his future as a composer. "I just want to sit down at my piano and write a song that people will listen to and remember and do the same thing every morning the rest of my life."

What a tragedy that Larson's goal was not achieved.

TICK, TICK...BOOM! runs until July 31, 2016 at the Spotlighters Theatre, 817 St. Paul St., Baltimore, MD 202102. For tickets, call 410-752-1225 or visit www.spotlighters.org. Do not miss it.

It runs 90 minutes without an intermission.

Ten Spot Thursday is July 14 where tickets are only $10.

There will be a "Talk Back " with the Director and cast following the July 24 performance.

For a list of upcoming auditions at Spotlighters, visit www. Spotlighters.org/auditions.html.

For you musical theater fans, next season includes DAS BARBECU, THE THREE PENNY OPERA, THE WIZ, and SPRING AWAKENING. What an auspicious line-up.

cgshubow@broadwayworld. com



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From This Author Charles Shubow