tick, tick… BOOM! lights up the night

tick, tick… BOOM! lights up the night

By Edith McCauley, Theater Critic

Lighting design creates, in the current production of Jonathan Larson’s tick, tick… BOOM!, an atmosphere essential to the story. Each scene comes to life with the play of light across the stage, in the brilliantly lit panels, and the spots that define each character. Driving up Lakeshore Drive, following our evening of theatre, the lights of the city provided a dramatic background in contrast to the lake’s night-time darkness. The impact of light could not be more apparent. The lighting designer, Howell Binkley, deserves the highest praise.

Jonathan Larson’s untimely death shortly before the opening of award-winning Rent left us a future without his exceptional talent. tick, tick… BOOM!, a first effort in creating a rock musical, was put aside when Rent became his predominant work. After his death, and old friend, Victoria Leacock, and others persuaded his family to allow them to produce his play. Originally a one-man show documenting his concern on reaching 30, “tick, tick” represents the passing of time and “BOOM!” the lack of success on reaching a milestone. With the help of Pulitzer Prize winner David Auburn, the autobiographical story developed into a musical version of Larson’s life. His best friend, Michael, played by Wilson Cruz, and girlfriend, Susan (Nivole Ruth Snelson) join Christian Campbell as Jonathon, in a beautifully constructed work.

Clint Holmes’ Comfortable Shoes ran briefly last November at the Royal George. The story of his life growing up in a bi-racial family used original music and vocal arrangements, much as Larson did, to relate the personal experiences of musical genius.

The young cast represents perfectly a moment in time. “30/90” captures the anxiety of those who feel 30 ends their youth with few prospects for the future. If you haven’t made it by then, all is lost. Stephen Sondheim is Jonathan’s role model. So enthralled is the young writer, he cannot say the name aloud. When Sondheim actually attends a workshop of Rent, a dream becomes reality.

A part of the Broadway in Chicago series, tick, tick… BOOM! runs briefly at the Shubert Theatre. Elaine Stritch at Liberty opens Tuesday, June 10, with only six performances. With rave reviews in New York, tickets may be at a premium. Tickets are available by calling (312) 902-1400, the Ticketmaster Hotline.

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