By Richard Ades
If you’re a fan of Rent or of rock-based musical theater in general, you’ll want to see tick, tick…Boom! The 1990 work is Jonathan Larson’s semi-autobiographical take on his struggle to establish himself as a composer and lyricist.
If you’re not a fan of either Rent or rock-based musical theater, the show is less of a must-see, but it remains tuneful and pleasant enough to be worthwhile.
Of course, the $64,000 question with any locally produced musical is: Does the cast have enough vocal chops to carry it off? Because, let’s face it, that’s not something you can take for granted.
Happily, though, the answer is a resounding yes. Director Zach Hartley has found three performers who sing like pitch-perfect larks. They also have acting chops, though that’s less of a consideration in a show whose appeal is more historical than dramatic.
Jonathan Collura is personable as Jon, a New York composer who’s sweating his way toward both his 30th birthday and a workshop performance of his latest musical. Kaitlin Descutner is equally appealing as his dancer/girlfriend, Susan, who supplies comfort and support when she’s not kvetching about her desire to live in a less-urban environment.
It would nice if Christopher Storer provided a more grounded portrayal of Michael, Jon’s Bimmer-driving roommate. That might make a last-minute revelation about the character seem less gratuitous. But Storer excels—as does Descutner—in colorful secondary roles.
As for the songs, they range from the lightweight Green Dress to the clever Sunday, a trio that reflects Jon’s (and Larson’s) reverence for Stephen Sondheim. Also Sondheim-like is the flashy Come to Your Senses, which gives Descutner a chance to show off her vocal power.
For the most part, the tunes come in flavors of rock, which Larson helped to introduce to musical theater. Whatever their genre, an onstage band led by musical director Hillary Billups provides stalwart support.
Truthfully, as a piece of theater, tick, tick…Boom! is less than overwhelming. But as a piece of theatrical history, it’s a gem.
Evolution Theatre Company will present tick, tick…Boom! through Aug. 17 at the Columbus Performing Arts Center, 549 Franklin Ave. Show times are 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Running time: 95 minutes. Tickets are $20-$25, $15 for students and seniors. 614-223-1124, 1-800-838-3006 or evolutiontheatre.org.