Where we discover that Jonathan Larson wrote something other than RENT

After a day at the London ComiCon, while my friends were watching Les Mis from the standings, I headed up North to watch Tick, Tick… BOOM!

But first let’s take a step back.

One of the things TodayTix does right is advertising. If you haven’t turned off notifications, it will tell you in real time about any offers. What works really well about it is that you then do not have to wait, go to a box office, or, I shudder to think… call. You can buy directly through the app. And anyone who has ever tried to navigate a theatre (or airline, or hotel…) booking system through mobile knows how frustrating it can be, especially if the pages are not mobile-friendly and you are forced to type your credit card details in tiny tiny windows.

A couple of weeks ago, when I was looking for something else entirely, I happened to see Tick, Tick… BOOM! tickets on TodayTix. The Park Theatre in Finsbury is not one of my usual haunts, and one of the few venues in the Southeast of the country that doesn’t have my email on file to spam me as it pleases (yes, I am one of those compulsive signer-uppers – I have decided that is a word). What caught my eye was, of course, Jonathan Larson’s name.

Tick, Tick… BOOM! is an autobiographical musical about a struggling composer about to turn thirty. He is scared of the big three-zero, and is having second thoughts about his own artistic ambitions. Now, we all know how ridiculous it sounds. Why, Larson! Winner of one Pulitzer and three Tony Awards! Of course he should pursue his ambitions!, we want to scream at the stage. But the point is, he doesn’t know yet (well, he will never know, and now I made myself sad thinking about it). And, like so many other artists, he is struggling to make ends meet. And it makes me think about how many Larsons might have given up before being able to produce their RENT, just because they were unable to make rent.

The Park Theatre has multiple auditoriums. Tick, Tick… BOOM! was in Park90, which does not have assigned seating. This always means that I’ll be queueing up to get in early and get first row. It doesn’t matter that the theatre is small, I am too competitive to settle for second row (besides, you never know when a 6ft person might end up sitting in front of you).

Just a side note on TodayTix: sometimes it will say sold out on the app, but that just means they ran out of their tickets: going on the theatre’s website might reveal that there are still places available, which is exactly what I did for this show.

At the beginning I wasn’t 100% sold on the narrator, which is strange, since I have been a voiceover girl since I first saw The Lord of the Rings at age 10, and I like fourth wall breaking, audience participation and witty, self-aware asides. It just took a moment to get off the ground, but after that it worked really well – with the three actors playing all the parts and the alternating of narration and performance. And the music was, of course, off the charts. It’s the kind of music that makes you want to clap and sing along.

But even more than that, the characters were compelling. If there’s a thing I absolutely adore, it is friendship done right, and some of the scenes between Jon and Michael exude such joy it is hard putting it into words. Watching them interact during No More was like a phone call to your best friend, like in jokes and mutual support. And the fact that they were singing dreamily about having a dishwasher was simply too #relatable.

(The hashtag is ironic. Maybe.)

And the song Sugar is so pure and fun, and it speaks directly to the heart… and the stomach of all of us. Or at least those left that aren’t on some restrictive sugar-free, everything-free diet.

My only complaint about this production is that I didn’t discover it sooner.


[written by Alice di Mattia; edited by Alessandra Cenni]

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