I’ve often wondered what Rent would be like if its 35-year-old writer, Jonathan Larson, hadn’t died suddenly in 1996, just before the show’s first preview. What might he have polished and revised? The same question comes to mind watching Tick, Tick…BOOM!, an autobiographical solo musical that Larson performed in 1990, which was revised after his death—by Proof’s David Auburn—into its current three-actor form. Nick Blaemire plays Jonathan, who is about to turn 30 and hears the ticking of his creative clock; he worries that he may not make it as a musical-theater composer like his idol, Stephen Sondheim. (The show has thematic traces of Company and Merrily We Roll Along, as well as an amusing homage to Sunday in the Park with George.)
Capably revived by Keen Company’s Jonathan Silverstein, the musical offers an entertaining if uneven look at artistic anxiety. Ciara Renée plays the women in Jonathan’s life, all of them underdeveloped, but gets to sing the best song in the score, the plangent ballad “Come to Your Senses”; George Salazar plays the men, including Jonathan’s gay best friend. The stakes seem somewhat low in this version; although Blaemire is likable as always, one misses the intensity that Raúl Esparza and Lin-Manuel Miranda brought to the role. Still, Larson’s untimely death shadows the musical with poignancy. Jonathan is even righter than he fears: You never know when life is going to lower the boom.
Acorn Theatre (Off Broadway). By Jonathan Larson. Directed by Jonathan Silverstein. With Nick Blaemire, Ciara Renée, George Salazar. Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission. Through Nov 20. Click here for full ticket and venue information.
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