Jonathan Larson died in 1996 just before the opening of his first major Broadway musical, Rent. Before this he was a struggling composer and the autobiographical Tick, Tick… Boom! was originally conceived as a solo work, addressing his mounting concern over his own future in the industry, and offering an insight into his life and work. The musical was re-jigged posthumously following the international success of Rent and has frequently been revived since then.
Even expanded to a three-person show, it remains an intimate piece of musical theatre and Guy Retallack’s production embraces this. It amplifies the overwhelming anxiety that composer Jon feels as he struggles for a break and then slaps him back into reality as his best friend Michael lets him into a secret that will change his life forever.
Alex Lodge projects just the right amount of ambition and vulnerability to make Jon seem slightly less self-obsessed. It’s a difficult task for a performer as the character derives even more drama from turning 30 than Bobby in Sondheim’s Company. But Jon’s friendship with James Hume’s Michael feels genuine and their voices complement one other, as evidenced in numbers such as No More.
The role of Jon’s girlfriend Susan, played by Georgie Ashford, is underwritten but thankfully she gets to double as Karessa, an actor in Jon’s show, allowing her a little more range and a show-stopping number in Come to Your Senses. Retallack and his company have located the truth in a piece that in other hands can feel too self-aware or, even worse, smug.