TICK, TICK... BOOM!
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Jonathan Larson, David Auburn, Script Consultant
Vocal Arrangements and Orchestrations by Stephen Oremus
ONSTAGE in Bedford
Directed by Lon Barrera
Assistant Director – David Lewis
Music Director – Kristin Spires
Choreographer – Beth Lipton
Stage Manager – Danielle Antinozzi
Set Design – Kevin Brown
Lighting Design – Kyle Harris
Sound Design – Mark Howard
Properties Design – Dawn Blasingame
Costume Design – Lon Barrera and Nikki Cloer
Artistic Director – Michael B. Winters
Jon – Trey West
Michael – Marcus Jauregui
Susan – Nikki Cloer
Reviewed Performance: 2/5/2016
Reviewed by Rachel Elizabeth Khoriander, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Tick, Tick... Boom! was written by Jonathan Larson, the composer of Rent, and was originally performed Off-Off-Broadway as a “rock monologue” in 1990. After Larson's death in 1996, playwright David Auburn, author of Proof, was tasked with reconfiguring the play for an Off-Broadway performance in 2001. During the reconfiguration process, Auburn added two actors (who each play a handful of parts) and streamlined the script and score.
Tick, Tick... Boom! is somewhat autobiographical. It is 1990 in New York City, and an aspiring composer named Jon is about to turn thirty. Concerned about aging and failing to fulfill his youthful artistic promise, Jon is torn between continuing on his artistic path or following another. Enter Michael, Jon's childhood friend and roommate, who has given up acting to pursue a corporate career that pays his bills and who would like to bring Jon along with him, and Susan, Jon's girlfriend, a dancer who is considering leaving New York in search of security and family.
The trio is played by Trey West as Jon, Marcus Jauregui as Michael, and Nikki Cloer as Susan, and they certainly have chemistry. However, early in the production the energy seems to waver, leading to some awkwardness in what could be powerhouse moments. However, by the time Jon and Michael perform “No More,” the ensemble has hit its stride, and West and Jauregui's performances in this number are some of the best of the show.
Trey West is particularly strong when playing off of Jauregui, and one can easily imagine the two of them as children together. West's performance during some of Jon's more melancholy moments is similarly strong—whether opposite Susan during “See Her Smile” or Michael just before “Why.” West's enunciation is clear and his voice well-suited for Larson's body of work, but his tendency to slide between (and sometimes past) notes that are somewhat distracting. Still, his Jon is convincing and often likable.
Marcus Jauregui is simply adorable as Michael. Whether primping for the office, sharing his newly-acquired “toys” with Jon, or supporting Jon by alternately encouraging Jon's dreams or trying to land Jon a job with his company, Jauregui's Michael is the epitome of the best friend. Because of this, I was actually a little jealous of Jon during the play. In addition, Jauregui's voice is as strong as his performance and adds a dulcet tone to the duets and trios.
As Susan, Nikki Cloer is engaging and subtly vulnerable. Though the first interaction between Cloer's Susan and West's Jon (“Green Green Dress”) seems more awkward than sensual, Cloer's strong presence and warmth soon smooths any slight discomfort. Cloer is excellent at shifting her energy slightly whether to expose another layer of Jon and Susan's relationship, or to expertly portray other characters, as she does with Karessa, the star of Jon's forthcoming showcase, and hilariously with Rosa, Jon's agent.
Throughout the show, costuming is on point and representative of the early 1990s. Jon wears oversized plaid shirts, slightly too tight Dockers, and suspenders; Susan has a Bohemian flavor to her wardrobe with flowing floral prints, denim vests, and green velvet. Michael varies between polished power suits and a brightly colored button-down with jeans and a denim jacket.
Set Designer Kevin Brown has created an industrial set that allows the show to dispense with scene changes. With the New York skyline as a backdrop, Jon's bedroom and keyboard on platforms of different heights, and a walkway that separates the band from the actors while still allowing them to interact when necessary, the space can easily transform in the audience's imagination from Jon's apartment to Michael's apartment to a darkened theater or dingy diner to the streets of New York City. The actors use every inch of the stage and beyond, seeming very comfortable with all but a rolling stair unit that is sometimes used to move an actor from one portion of the set to another. Here, the actors seem overly cautious, which occasionally detracts from the energy of the show.
Lighting evokes the mood of each scene, often dim, with fractured gobos adding to the industrial feel. Moving spotlights, though sometimes slightly behind the actors, help to create individual space on the stage and fluidly orient the audience.
Sound cues are timely, whether referring to a ringing phone, a revving car engine, an answering machine message, or the ticking of the clock. The band's placement on stage allows them to participate as crew, handing off costumes, or as actors in certain parts of the production. On opening night, some unfortunate bobbles occurred—Cloer's microphone appeared to be inoperable and some audible clicking could be heard when West and Jauregui bumped against one another.
Despite the small hiccups, Tick, Tick... Boom! at ONSTAGE in Bedford is an entertaining evening, and should certainly be of interest to fans of Rent as, prior to the show, the audience is treated to early recordings of Larson's work and to trivia surrounding his career. Additionally, the themes that run through Tick, Tick... Boom! had a way of making their way into his later work. While admittedly, Jon's plight seems a little overblown (it's hard to have a great deal of sympathy for a character who has a fantastic best friend, a lovely girlfriend, and an agent; is putting together a show in NYC; has caught the notice of Stephen Sondheim; and is still complaining about his lack of achievement), many of us can relate to the search for meaning, to questioning our chosen path in life, and to relationships that could have or perhaps should have been. It's here where Tick, Tick... Boom! particularly shines.
TICK, TICK... BOOM!
ONSTAGE in Bedford,42821 Forest Ridge Drive, Bedford, TX 76021
Runs through February 28th.
Friday and Saturday at 8:00pm, with additional performances on Sunday at 3:00pm. Regular ticket prices are $19.99 for adults, and $14.99 for Bedford residents, seniors, and students. Group discounts are available. For info and tickets, visit www.onstageinbedford.com or call the box office at 817-354-6444.