“tick. tick. BOOM,” a musical written by Jonathan Larson, is the autobiographical story of an aspiring playwright and composer who is about to turn 30 and still hasn’t had a hit show. The show was presented in the Emilie K. Asplundh concert hall, but not like anyone might expect. Instead of filling the large auditorium, a smaller arrangement of chairs was set up on the stage, bringing the cast and audience together. The show opened unusually as well: characters simply walked on stage and started talking.
“tick. tick.. BOOM” centers around the week leading up to the 30th birthday of the main character, Jon (Matt Whalen). He begins the show speaking over an ominous ticking noise, telling the audience, “The sound you are hearing is not a technical problem. It is not a musical cue. It is not a joke. It is the sound of one man’s mounting anxiety. I… am that man.” Much of the humor in the show comes from the side comment remarks made by Jon.
Jon’s best friend Michael (Billy Kametz) and Jon’s girlfriend, Susan (Tabitha Allen) make up the rest of the cast.
Michael, a former actor has recently settled down into an office job, and Susan teaches dance to “wealthy and untalented children.”
Both make attempts to cheer him up but he is hesitant to see past the fact that he is approaching 30.
One change that director Andrew Lowy made to the show was adding a small ensemble of four others, Jaclyn Chilcote, Ashley Eidam Douglas Atkins and Connor McAndrews.
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After the initial introduction to the characters, the audience is given a glimpse into the relationship between Jon and Susan.
She joins him on the rooftop, and they discuss the custom made dress that she just received in the song “Green, Green Dress.”
They fall asleep and the next morning they argue about leaving New York City.
This leads to two more musical numbers, “Johnny Can’t Decide,” which focuses on his internal problems and concerns, and is cut short by his needing to get to work as a waiter, in the song “Sunday.”
Later that day, Michael brings Jon to see his new apartment, and they sing and dance about the higher quality of life in the new apartment.
That night, Susan and Jon have a very passive aggressive argument via song.
The next day, Jon goes to work with Michael to partake in a brainstorming session, but he doesn’t fit in so he causes a disturbance and is asked to leave. He then goes to a rehearsal for the show that he is working on, “SUPERBIA.”
On the way he stops for some Twinkies, and runs into one of the actresses, and the two bond over a mutual love of the snack.
Susan sees the two walking home together after, and becomes jealous.
She then tells Jon that she found a job in Massachusetts. Jon begs Susan to stay, but she leaves for home.
In the morning is the workshop show for “SUPERBIA.”
Although the audience is empty at first, it fills up quickly with friends, important people in the industry, and Jon’s idol St—- S——-. Karessa (Ashley Eidam) steals the show.
The workshop is a success, but there are still no professional offers to produce the show. Jon visits Michael and tells him that he is giving up music. Michael tries to persuade him to stay with it, and then tells him that he is HIV positive.
Jon is shocked by the news and leaves quickly, wandering around New York and reminiscing about growing up with Michael.
The next morning is Jon’s 30th birthday, which he spends surrounded by his friends, finally realizing that his talents are recognized by those who are important to him.
Jon sits down to play “Happy Birthday” on the piano, and muses, “the tick tick booms are softer now. I can barely hear them, and I think if I play loud enough I can drown them out completely.”
The show revolves around one set and a few moving pieces, however the desired effect is definitely apparent.
The actors move the sets themselves, which adds to the effect.
Also clear is Larson’s interest in Stephen Sondheim. Besides being referred to as “so legendary his name may not be uttered out loud, St—- S——-,” there are also references to West Side Story as well as the show having similar qualities to the Sondheim show “Company.”
“Company” also shows the main character celebrating a milestone birthday and finishing with the cast singing “Happy Birthday.”
Jenn Rothstein is a second year student majoring in English with a minor in education. She can be reached at QuadEIC@wcupa.edu.