Some time ago I picked up the soundtrack for Tick, Tick…Boom! and while listening to it at least 4 times in a row, I was really surprised that I didn’t get it sooner. Better late than never, I guess. Actually I’m more disappointed that I didn’t catch it while it was running Off-Broadway. I think I tried, but just couldn’t make it.
Tick, Tick…Boom! is good, catchy, but only 45 minutes of music. It’s an autobiographical piece, one Jonathan Larson originally intended as a one man show. At the turning point of 30, Jonathan (the character) questions his career choice of writing music and living the Bohemian life while finding out his friend has AIDs. Larson did a small homage to his friend and mentor Stephen Sondheim with “Sunday” (after Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George) and references to West Side Story. I can hear aspects of Rent in it, but in fairness TTB! was written beforehand and can even be seen as the scratch paper for Rent.
Tick, Tick…Boom! is probably a very unknown treasure among the masses, unless you’re a theatre geek or truly love Jonathan Larson’s stuff. By stuff, I mean the musical sensation Rent, which thanks to the (very well done) film, has become even more popular. Most of his works are obscure and/or buried: music for others (including Sesame Street), some individual pieces, and performing in the musical Billy Bishop Goes to War. One of his early shows, Superbia, had a short run Off-Broadway, but was never fully produced. Rent went to workshop in 1993 and started on Broadway in April 1996. It’s currently the 7th longest running show on Broadway, which is a blessing considering what’s on stage these days.
Larson finished TTB! in 1991 but it wasn’t performed until 2001 when a couple close friends convinced Larson’s family that TTB! needed to be shown. They merged a few of its original scripts and turned it into a 3-person show. I don’t think his friends could have done a better tribute. Larson passed away at 36 from an undetected aortic dissection in January of 1996, the day of Rent‘s Off-Broadway premiere. As they say in show business, the show must go on, and it did even while the company was trying to hold themselves together. That performance and every one after that, was the cast’s tribute.
“The world is calling, it’s now or neverland.” ~Jonathan Larson, “30/90” Tick, Tick…Boom!