Ken Chamberland, Parris Greaves (photo: Vincent Perri)
Jonathan Larson’s ‘other’ musical delivers on modest ambitions, even if it takes its time getting started.
by Christian Baines
Write what you know, they say.
Let’s forget Rent for a moment. In scale and tone, Tick, Tick... Boom! is much closer to intimate chamber musicals such as The Last 5 Years, Ordinary Days and [title of show], which have been doing the rounds with alarming regularity on the virtue that they’re for the most-part fairly inoffensive, play well to the musical theatre ‘in’ crowd and can be produced on a shoestring budget. Many of these shows work splendidly, others... not so much.
Tick, Tick... Boom! kind of has a foot in each camp, and by ‘foot’ I mean about half of its running time. It doesn’t really find a voice to call its own until about the halfway point, skittering around the cringe-inducing Green Green Dress and fun, but somewhat silly numbers like Johnny Can’t Decide and Sunday in the meantime. But when it does hit its stride, right around the time Jon’s labour-of-love musical goes to workshop, we get flashes of energy and willingness to take risks that not only foreshadow Rent, but demonstrate just what the musical theatre world may have lost when Larson passed.
Greaves does a fine job of navigating Jon through the fairly familiar narrative without resorting to irritating, neurotic New York artist stereotypes. Yes, there are moments in which the book is doing him no favours – Larson clearly loved to break the fourth wall with narration and a couple of numbers meant to show Jon as ‘a regular guy’ come across as a touch grotesque. Still, Greaves is likeable and engaging throughout. Likewise Chamberland, who along with Nason covers several roles with varying degrees of camp, sincerity and flash. He does unfortunately come across a bit ‘Ken doll’ at times, but what comes through when he does show a bit of vulnerability is delightful. Nason meanwhile owns the stage whenever she sings (and is it just me, or is Susan really just an extension of Company’s Kathy?).