BWW Review: TICK, TICK BOOM! at Roxy's Downtown, Actions Speak Louder Than... Words!
"It's time, pursue your dreams." This is a quote by S. Weitzman, an entrepreneur. It's plastered on a mural right beneath a sundial on southeast Kellogg here in Wichita. Now, I'm not suggesting attempting to read any of the quotes on Kellogg during your morning commute but if you ever do get the time, you'll be reminded kindly that "the journey is the reward." Every day, we wake up, possibly head west on Kellogg towards downtown past these 'time' murals and the green sundial to a large corporate office to work a nine to five only hoping every minute is spent worthwhile pursuing our dreams. We are a community of engineers, teachers, nurses, baristas, servers, artists, entrepreneurs, idealists, musicians, librarians, doctors, lawyers, journalists, mighty moms, dads, brothers, sisters, friends, et alia. We wish our time here on earth is well spent and we are able to leave some sort of a legacy behind only to be remembered. At least that's how I feel, don't you? I am suggesting, however, to ditch dragging Douglas and taking the quicker route on Kellogg to Roxy's current production Tick, Tick Boom! An autobiographical musical piece by playwright and composer of Rent, Jonathan Larson, Tick, Tick Boom! talks about Larson's relentless pursuit of his passion. The show runs for a limited time from September 6-29.
The set, designed by Dora Arbuckle, has several clocks painted all over it with roman numerals, analog numbers, and the year 1990 centerstage in which the setting takes place in New York City. The cast features only three actors. They are Ryan Schafer (Jon), Carter Tholl (Susan/Rosa/Karessa/Judy) and Max Wilson (Michael/Michael's Father). All tell the hardheaded truth of what life is like in the big apple as well as the challenges presented in pursuing a musical theatre profession. With no intermission, running time is about an hour and a half.
Making her Roxy's Downton debut, Carter Tholl has the task of playing multiple characters along with quick changes in between each switch including a green dress to show off her beauty as the love interest to Jon. She partakes in a comical conversation with Jon about making the long trek over to her apartment to watch cable television exposing the further hardships of dating in Manhattan. (Be thankful for our fifteen-minute commute here in Wichita versus an hour on the subway.) During "Johnny Can't Decide," Tholl gets the first chance to show off her vocals but later has a more powerful delivery during 30/90 Reprise. Lighting by Scott Olney is perfect during the reprise, creating subtle and effective focus on Tholl.
Ryan Schafer as Jon shows improved vocal singing in his return to the Roxy's stage. Towards the beginning of the production, he sings the tune "Sunday" wonderfully, a song about being a restaurant waiter working on his first workshop musical. He also executes several, lengthy monologues throughout including one about real life and being a struggling, unpaid actor. The only word of caution is to not drop pitch too drastically in the delivery or lines lose energy and excitement.
Max Wilson, similarly to Tholl, gets the opportunity to play multiple characters but most of his costume changes happen onstage by simply adding a pair of seeing eyeglasses or a hat. One thematic persona of his, Michael, leads to the immediate heart of the show of homophobia and living with HIV allowing Schafer to deliver yet another monologue about Wilson's character asking why this could happen moving Schafer to tears.
With musical direction under Andrew Bowers and team, you can definitely hear the similarities in music composition of Jonathan Larson's other hit, Rent. The band even gets in on the act throwing out musical workshop titles to help Jon in his writing. In addition, there were a couple of sound cues which were played appropriately on time. One even featured a strong voiceover actor. Praise goes to whomever that was in the recording. Rick Bumgardner, resident artistic director, accomplished the message or idea actions do speak louder than words. There were, however, a few hiccups in blocking as far as using the stage more, forming better aesthetic formation of actors, and mistakenly taking the dialogue too literal. I will note, though, that the rehearsal space for the theatre is quite small making it challenging to address how much stage space is available to use.
Up next, Roxy's Downtown presents Hocus Pocus, a musical based on the pop culture film featuring Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker. The show will feature three local lead actresses Jen Bechter, Jenny Mitchell, and Julia Faust. For tickets be sure to call 316.265.4400 between the hours of 10:00 am and 5:00 pm. Select nights are filling up fast and it's only just a matter of time before tickets become completely sold out.