“Tick, Tick…BOOM!” is an unflinching look at the lives of struggling artists


Stephani Bradley

Tick, Tick… BOOM! is a musical that embraces the idea of doing something new in an unorthodox, but very welcoming way.

Jonathan Larson, best known as the composer of the 90’s hit musical “Rent,” changed the face of musical theater as we know it. When “Rent” burst onto the scene, it shook the world with its frank depictions of LGBTQ+ characters, people who lived with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and life in the artistic community of New York City.

However, what very few people know is that Jonathan Larson also wrote a musical called “tick… tick… BOOM!” Inspired by his life as a struggling writer, the musical chronicled his trials, errors and misadventures in attempting to get his musical, “Superbia,” produced.

This attracted “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda towards potentially adapting “tick… tick… BOOM!” for the screen. After all, he did star as Jon (played on film by Andrew Garfield) in the Encores Off-Center production in 2014.

In an interview with Deadline, Miranda stated that seeing the original Off-Broadway production was the proverbial wake-up call for him. He, like Larson, felt slightly bitter that his friends were growing up and achieving the trappings of material success while he struggled to get his piece in front of the right eyes.

It was this sentiment of “risk, fail, risk again” (and Stephen Sondheim’s blessing) that led Miranda to bring “tick… tick… BOOM!” to the screen. The film features outstanding performances by Andrew Garfield as Jon, Joshua Henry as Roger, and Vanessa Hudgens as Karessa.

As a fan of musical theater, I enjoyed this look into Jonathan Larson’s life before the success “Rent” gave him. I also appreciated the overall respect for Larson’s story, and Miranda made it abundantly clear that he was not attempting to make a profit off Larson’s legacy.

The film is great in that it shows the gritty realities of being a working actor or writer. For every yes, there are ten nos, as the saying goes. Therefore, it behooved Larson and others like him to develop a thick skin and find joy in the small things, as demonstrated in the rousing ensemble number “Boho Days.”

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the film and would recommend it to fans of musical theater.