Friday, 15 May 2009

Tick, Tick, Boom - Duchess Theatre

Tick, Tick, Boom
Music/Lyrics Jonathan Larson
Director: Hannah Chissick

Reviewer: Leon Trayman

Jonathan Larson’s Tick, Tick, Boom! is the musical that preceded Rent, and tells the story of a “promising young composer” on the cusp of turning 30, John (Paul Keating), who’s musical ‘Superbia’ is being workshoped and showcased to the great and good of the New York musical theatre scene.

Julie Atherton plays John’s girlfriend Susan who decides to end the relationship after her request to move to out of Manhattan causes friction in the relationship. The final member of the cast is Leon Lopez, as John’s best friend Michael, who has recently bought a new BMW and apartment, leaving John feeling as though he hasn’t achieved anything significant in the last three decades.

It’s clear that Rent is stronger musically, and shows the extent to which Larson grew in his compositions between the two projects. Unfortunately, you don’t find yourself humming any of the melodies after the show…

The piece is semi-autobiographical, and has considerable nods to the brilliance and esteem in which Larson held Stephen Sondheim, who could almost be considered as the fourth cast member!

Larson’s ‘Sunday’ parody is worth the ticket price alone!

Paul Keatings performance is honest and emotional, has a beautiful lightness of touch, and yet us still muscular, athletic and energetic. Leon Lopez beautifully transforms between characters, and brings the sadness and loss of his character’s former life as an actor home with the delicately placed “I wasn’t good enough!” Julie Atherton is exceptional, as always. Her comic timing is exemplary and her elderly Jewish New Yorker Agent (think Estelle in Friends…), air-headed receptionist, and market-research executive had me helpless with laughter. Her vocal dexterity brings a wealth of rich characterization to the sung and spoken sections of the piece in equal measure.

Hannah Chissick’s direction serves the piece and actors well, and clearly defines the different spaces, situations and characters we meet along the way. My only reservation is the sound balance between the band and the vocals, which occasionally makes it difficult to hear the actors clearly.

It’s a good night at the theatre, but Rentheads be aware that it’s a VERY different show…where Rent has cocaine, Tick, Tick, Boom! has Twinkies!!!! For those who know about Jonathan Larson’s story, this show is heart-wrenching, and his voice is clearly heard throughout.

Tick, Tick, Boom! runs until Sun 17th May at The Duchess Theatre
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