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Tick, Tick, Boom!

Cover to original Broadway cast recording

Musical in 2 acts. Book, music and Lyrics by Jonathan Larson.

Jane Street Theatre, New York - 13 June, 2001

Original Cast:

Raúl Esparza, Amy Spanger and Jerry Dixon

Set Design: Anna Louizos
Lighting Design: David Zinn
Costume Design: Kenneth Posner
Sound Design: Jon Weston
Musical Staging: Christopher Gattelli
Musical Director/Orchestrator/Arranger: Stephen Oremus

A musical look at the courage it takes to follow your dreams, TICK, TICK... BOOM! is Jonathan Larson's autobiographical tale of a young composer on the brink of turning 30 and falling into oblivion. His girlfriend wants to get married and move out of the city (TICK,), his best friend is making big bucks on Madison Avenue (TICK...), yet Jon is still waiting on tables and trying to write the great American musical (BOOM!). Containing fourteen songs, ten characters, three actors, and a band, TICK, TICK... BOOM! takes you on the playwright/composer's journey that led to the Broadway blockbuster, RENT. Set in 1990, this traditional book musical is filled with instantly appealing melodies, and a unique blend of pop and musical theatre styles. Everyone, regardless of age, will love this youthful, endearing, and thoughtful piece, and will surely embrace the universal ideal of holding onto your dreams through life's most difficult challenges.


In black, we hear tick… tick.. tick.. tick.. It is not a technical problem. It is not a musical cue. It is not a joke. It is the sound of one man’s mounting anxiety. That man is Jon. He’s a promising composer who’s “been promising for so long I’m afraid I’m starting to break the… promise.” His agent won’t return his calls. He’s barely affording the rent on his apartment at the edge of SoHo. And oh, yeah, he’s turning thirty.

He does have two good friends: Michael, his roommate, who has recently given up acting and become a successful marketing executive; and Susan, his girlfriend, who wants Jon to play “Happy Birthday” on the piano at his own party. She’s a dancer who “supports herself teaching ballet to wealthy and untalented children.” Jonathan is fretting about the upcoming workshop of SUPERBIA, the musical he’s been writing for five years, when Susan arrives to comfort him, wearing an astoundingly sexy dress.

The next morning, Jon is unable to sleep. Susan gives him one more worry: she wants to leave New York, and make a decent life for herself with Jon in Cape Cod, somewhere by a beach – anyway, somewhere affordable. Michael has also been pressuring Jon to come interview at his firm. Jon likes neither option. But he likes his current job even less – waiting tables at a diner for brunch on a strangely Sondheimian “Sunday”.

After work, Michael picks Jon up in his new Beamer and takes him to see his new Upper East Side apartment. It’s still being remodeled, but soon, he’ll have “No More” of the grime, crowds and bad plumbing that make bohemian life both exasperating and exhilarating. Seeing that, Jon finally agrees to interview at Michael’s firm.

In the middle of Jon’s weekly conversation with his parents from White Plains, in which they remind him how well his married sister is doing, his agent finally gets back to him. She is trying to get “interesting people” to come to Jon’s workshop. Jon sits down to write, when Susan calls, inviting Jon over. He wants to stay home and write – which, of course, leads to a fight. But Jon and Susan are so careful not to step on each other’s toes that their fighting sounds more like “Therapy”.

On his way to Michael’s office the next morning, Jon wanders through Times Square, wondering if his work will ever end up on Broadway. The thought both excites and terrifies him.

At Michael’s office, Jon is asked to participate in a “creative-process-unlocking session” for the naming of a new no-calorie replacement for cooking fat. The process is extenuated, pretentious, and more than a little bit painful. Jon, who just wants to name the product already, becomes more and more snide until he manages to get himself kicked out.

Michael is furious at Jon. He doesn’t see this as a game, or a show to rewrite, but “Real Life”. Michael, who is gay, envies Jon his chance for a marriage, family and “normal” existence. Jon heads to rehearsal for SUPERBIA, and stops for a pick-me-up. Caught in the act of buying Twinkies by his show’s lead actress, Karessa, he is relieved to discover that she shares his addiction.

Rehearsal goes well, but Jon arrives home to find Susan packing. She has a job teaching “real dancers” in Northampton, Massachusetts. It’s for two weeks, but could evolve into something more permanent. Jon doesn’t want to stop her pursuing her dreams, but doesn’t want to let her go. He just wants to “See Her Smile”.

And it’s time for the workshop. Michael is there. Susan is there. So is Jon’s dad, his agent, and the most Interesting Person of all, a composer-lyricist so famous he cannot be named, St----- S-----. The show begins. Karessa sings her solo, a soaring rock ballad called “Come to Your Senses”. Everyone tells Jon the reading went wonderfully – but nobody wants to produce the show.

Jon is devastated. He goes to Michael’s office to beg for a job, but Michael tells him not to give up. If this show didn’t go anywhere, write another. Frustrated, Jon screams that Michael doesn’t understand what it’s like to be afraid of the future. Michael answers, “I know I’m sick, Jon, and I’m not going to get any better.” Jon runs to Central Park, unable to cope, wanting to scream. He thinks about his past with Michael, all of the shows they did together, and asks, “Why?” He realizes that life is a short time, and writing is the only way he wants to fill it. Finally, it’s the birthday party, and Jon is turning thirty. He makes up with Michael, and says good-bye to Susan. To cap things off, Sondheim calls to congratulate Jon on his reading and invite him to lunch. Then the cake comes, and Jon is led to the piano to play his anthem. “The tick tick booms are softer now. I can barely hear them, and I think if I play loud enough I can drown them out completely.”

Musical Numbers

  1. 30/90 - Jonathan, Michael, Susan
  2. Green Green Dress - Jonathan, Susan
  3. Johnny Can’t Decide - Jonathan, Susan, Michael
  4. Sunday - Jonathan, Diner Patrons
  5. No More - Michael, Jonathan
  6. Therapy - Jonathan, Susan
  7. Real Life - Michael, Jonathan, Susan
  8. Sugar - Jonathan, Karessa, Counter Guy
  9. See Her Smile - Jonathan, Susan, Michael
  10. Come To Your Senses - Karessa
  11. Why - Jonathan
  12. 30/90 (Reprise) - Jonathan
  13. Louder Than Words - Jonathan, Michael, Susan