Lin-Manuel Miranda directs a fantastic new version of tick, tick…BOOM!, making a theatrical nerd’s wet dream out of this Jonathan Larson musical
“Everything you’re about to see is true…apart from the bits Jonathan made up”
Some musicals you see and you think yeah, this could possibly change a sceptic’s mind about the artform. And then some you see and you think, this really is just playing to the crowd. tick, tick…BOOM! definitely falls into this latter category, hugely enjoyable but so densely suffused in the world of musical theatre that it might be too much for newbies to unpick.
It is directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) and adapted by Steven Levenson (Dear Evan Hansen) from Jonathan Larson’s (Rent) semi-autobiographical musical about writing a musical. And structurally, we follow Andrew Garfield’s Jonathan as he delivers a one-man-show (called tick, tick…BOOM!) whilst flashing back to his attempts to finish his magnum opus, a musical called Superbia.
Less complicated in the watching than that makes it sound, what does need pre-knowledge is Larson’s tragic story. He died just before Rent opened and tick… is full of foreshadowings and inspirations for that later work. And it is also about the debt that Larson felt he owed to Stephen Sondheim, a mentor figure who was in turn paying the debt he felt he owed from the support Oscar Hammerstein offered him.
So there’s Sondheimian references throughout, none more so overt as ‘Sunday’ which borrows from Sunday in the Park with George and in the fantasy sequence, puts together a cameo cast of dreams. And this bittersweet mix of the fantastical and the quotidian, as Larson struggles with finishing his musical in time for a workshop and is quite a bit of a dick to his girlfriend (Alexandra Shipp’s Susan) and pals, makes the film a real success.