Taking Stock at 30
By Roz Friedman
Three elderly women were exiting the Westport Country Playhouse following the Sunday matinee on June 28; I overheard one say that there weren’t many singable melodies in the show they has just seen; (and) her friend answered, that is the way it is in musicals these days!
Despite that fact, “tick, tick…..BOOM!” is one of the most honest and touching pieces of writing I’ve heard and seen in recent times. Of course, the background story is interesting and tragic and lends dimension to the piece. This musical, which won the Outer Critics Circle award for Outstanding Off Broadway show in 2001, was adapted from Jonathan Larsen’s one-man show, written years before his prize-winning “Rent” won a Tony on Broadway and a Pulitzer. In 1996, the day before “Rent” opened, Larsen died at the age of 35 of an aortic aneurism. Therefore, he never got to see his works performed or personally receive the accolades and awards given to his work.
“tick, tick….Boom!” was developed into a full-fledged show after Larsen died. David Auburn, who later won a Tony for Best Play for “Proof,” is listed as Script Consultant and Stephen Oremus for Vocal Arrangements and Orchestrations. Director Scott Schwartz, involved with the show for nine years, has lent his expertise to the production.
The story is Larsen’s own: the clock is ticking as Jon, a composer turning thirty confronts his faltering career, his relationship with his best friend, Michael, who has left the acting world for Madison Avenue (not in Bridgeport), a new BMW and a great new apartment (with a toilet and a bathtub), and his romance with Susan, a ballet dance teacher, who wants more in life than he can offer; he is also dealing with his Westchester parents’ expectations. The three actors, Colin Hanlon as Jon, Wilson Cruz as Michael, and Pearl Sun as Susan. acquit themselves brightly, although. I would have liked to see Hanlon give a performance that possessed a little more depth.
There are several themes running through this artist’s journey. Jon must decide whether to sell-out, move to New England with his girl friend, and/or take a job in the real word—thus the song, “Real Life.” Larsen was a great fan of Stephen Sondheim’s work, and his spoof of that composer’s song, “Sunday,” is the best in the show. Encompassing Jon’s work as a waiter for a Sunday brunch, its use of language and color is funny and shows off Larsen’s facile talents.
Accompanied by four excellent musicians, Charles Czarnecki, Piano, who is also the Music Director, Seth Myers, Bass, Spencer Cohen, Drums and Craig Maganano Guitars, on stage, the three actors race around with Choreographer Christopher Gatelli’s help, through the smart staging; Cruz and Sun play a variety of roles.
The costumes are so well-designed by Ilona Somogyi, particularly the ones for Susan; David Farley’s scenic design lit by Herrick Goldman serves its purpose well.
“tick, tick…Boom!” will play through July 18 at the Westport Country Playhouse.
This review originally aired on WMNR 88.1FM FINE ARTS RADIO