tick, tick...BOOM!

tick, tick...BOOM! ★★★★★

If your pump-up song is “I Feel Pretty,” and you think there’s nothing more metal than Billy Bigelow belting out the first act finale of “Carousel,” then “Tick, tick… BOOM” is for you. 

If not, then, well… there’s a line of theatre kids ready to “So Long, Farewell” you to the door. 

Ok - do I have just the musical nerds left in the audience? There here we go:

“Tick, Tick…. BOOM” is the film version of that CD we all cherished, “Jonathan Sings Larson.” It’s full of blasts of genius, inspiration, and desperation. It’s messy and certainly a bit unfinished. But for all that - it’s a work with an excess of what no amount of polish can ever force out to gleam: hope. 

To view the frames of the film is to pop in your DVD copy of “Broadway: the American Musical” again, or to crack the well worn spine of your RENT bible. It’s as close as most of us will ever come to visiting the actual world of composer Jonathan Larson. 

There are certainly many cultured people for whom this is a pilgrimage in which they have no interest. But for anyone who ever schlepped down to Soho (before it was all condos) to sip a hot chocolate at the Moondance Diner, or who dragged themselves out of bed at 4am on the weekend to like up for front row seats to “RENT” at the Nederlander… director Lin-Manuel Miranda has created a holy object of worship. 

“BOOM” makes clear from moments in that it is not for converts. It rewards those who always had a place in their stereo for the thick double CD original Broadway cast recording of “RENT.” But for those who have never counted the minutes in a year… it will likely be only two hours of film of which you count down the seconds passing. 

Andrew Garfield gives one of the most memorable lead performances of the year; not only for his prodigious singing talent, but for committing so hard to the role of Jon(athan) that the sweaty dramatics will no doubt make any theatre-doubter blush with secondhand embarrassment. 

But this is not a movie for those who would cast a side eye at jazz square-ing in a public space. 

So, I can only write this from my own, highly sentimental, decades-in-recovery theatre kid point of view. 

I met Robin de Jesus at the stage door of the Nederlander when he was in the chorus understudying Angel. He was in a documentary I made for a school project that was all about Jonathan Larson. I ate at the Moondance Diner on the regular. I was friends with a girl who had a tattoo saying “525,600.” 

And, oh, my own mother has a tattoo with lyrics from “Tick, tick…. BOOM.” 


So, as someone who goes into this adaption like it’s the theatre nerd version of birthright… Lin-Manuel Miranda has brought me right back to those green, graffitied walls on 41st street. Whatever the legacy of the show that once played there, or its creator, it will forever be the place where I learned the capacity of art to contain love. My heart has chosen wings over cages ever since.

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