‘Tick Tick…BOOM!’ was written and first performed by Jonathan Larson as an extended rock monologue in 1990. It was only after his death in 1996 that David Auburn reconfigured it into a three actor chamber musical. It’s nakedly autobiographical, particularly moving in the light of his untimely death and fascinating for those interested in tracking the seeds of Rent, his Pulitzer prize winning musical.

Aspiring rock composer Jon is wracked with self-doubt as the workshop for his new show gets ever closer. Still waiting tables for a living his dancer girlfriend wants to move out of Manhattan and start a family and his best-friend Michael has given up acting for a lucrative marketing career. ‘How do you know when it’s time to let go?’ he sings.

Whilst remaining largely focussed on his artistic struggles, when his relationship collapses under the pressure and Michael reveals he's terminally ill, the broader themes of Rent which he began writing pretty soon after, begin to emerge, as do the musical strains of that ground-breaking show.

Studio 90 at the Park Theatre is an intense space for a musical – there is little space for the energetic choreography and no-where to hide. But Bronagh Lagan’s directing is sharp and pacey and the 90 minutes flies by. ‘Sunday’ is a stand out number, paying homage to Sondheim’s own song of the same name; this time a waiters despair at the nightmare customers instead of a manifesto about art. Chris Jenkins is earnest and genuine as Jonathan, giving all he’s got to reach the heights of this challenging score. Jordan Shaw as his gym toned best-mate Michael though a little tense at times, has a really beautiful tone to his voice, floating the gorgeous number ‘Real Life.’ Susan Gillian is extremely watchable, with a gentle warmth as girlfriend Susan and some very funny cameos as his agent and café customer.

Tick Tick Boom stands alone as a musical but there’s no doubt it’s likely to be more moving to fans of Larson who will know that he died of an un-diagnosed condition very suddenly on the morning of the first preview of Rent, never tasting the extraordinary success he so longed for.
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