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This week marked the 20th Anniversary of the Off Broadway debut of Jonathan Larson‘s cult smash hit rock musical Tick, Tick, Boom….. the show that was initially developed prior before his worldwide phenomenon Rent. We have B-Roll footage below of that 2001 production. From the Jane Street Theatre, here is Raúl E. Esparza as “Jonathan:, Jerry Dixon as “Michael”, and Amy Spagner as “Susan”.
In case anyone may not be familiar with the story, TICK, TICK, BOOM is an autobiographical pop-rock opera by the late Jonathan Larson following his life long before RENT). Set in NYC in 1990, the story follows “Jonathan” (nicknamed in the musical as “Jon”) on the verge of turning 30 as he struggles to get his music out in the world and fearing that his career choice was a mistake. Notable songs include 30/90, SUNDAY, NO MORE, COME TO YOUR SENSES, & LOUDER THAN WORDS.
Larson first conceived the idea of the show in the mid-80’s following a disappointing rejection by industry who failed to produce his futuristic musical SUPERBIA (a rock retelling of the classic George Orwell novel 1984). He initially wrote it as a one man show featuring Larson and a full rock band.
The show was first performed Off-Off Broadway as a workshop produced by Second Stage Theater in the Fall of 1990 under the initial title BOHO DAYS. Following that first workshop, he revised it in a whole year before performing the new version at the Village Gate (with college pal Victoria Leacock Hoffman producing) in November 1991. The Village Gate performance won Larson the attention by a young rising producer named Jeffrey Seller who wanted to produce many of Jonathan’s shows. A few months later, Larson got the call of a lifetime with Billy Aronson to work on a new original musical that later became his groundbreaking hit…..RENT.
In 1996 following Jonathan Larson’s tragic passing from an Aortic Aneurysm and RENT’s whirlwind GLORY, Leacock- Hoffman teamed up with writer David Auburn to reconfigure TICK, TICK, BOOM. The musical was changed from being a one man show to a 3 person show (featuring the characters of “Jon”, “Michael”, and “Susan”).
The revised version of TICK, TICK, BOOM had its world premiere Off Broadway in 2001 at the Jane Street Theater for an 8 month run. Under the direction of Scott Schwartz ,and choreography by future Tony winner Christopher Gattelli, the cast featured….
Raúl E. Esparza (later Joey McIntyre) as “Jon”,
Jerry Dixon as “Michael”,
Amy Spanger (later Molly Ringwald and Natascia Diaz) as “Susan”.
The Off Broadway premiere of TICK, TICK, BOOM was nominated for 7 Drama Desk Awards (including OUTSTANDING NEW MUSICAL) in 2001. However, it lost all the categories. It did however went on to win the Outer Circle Critics Award for OUTSTANDING OFF BROADWAY MUSICAL.
Following the success of its Off Broadway run, TICK, TICK, BOOM went on to become a worldwide hit for all Jonathan Larson fans everywhere. Productions went on to be played on Tour across America, in London’s West End, and in many different countries playing their native languages.
The recent Off Broadway revival of the show happened in 2016 at the Acorn Theater at Theater Row for a limited engagement. Under the direction of Jonathan Silverstein, this cast featured…
Nick Blaemire as “Jon”,
George Salazar as “Michael”,
Ciara Renée (later Lilli Cooper) as “Susan”.
In addition to its Off Broadway run, TICK, TICK, BOOM was performed as a concert production for New York City Center Encores’ Off-Series back in 2014. The cast featured 3 of the most incredible Tony winning stars of the Great Bright Way who all later went on to a little show called Hamilton. Under the direction of Oliver Butler, the cast featured Tony winners….
Lin-Manuel Miranda as “Jon”,
Leslie Odom Jr. as “Michael”,
Karen Olivo as “Susan”.
Today, the musical has been performed everywhere from schools, community, and regional theaters everywhere.
Along with its success on stage, a film adaptation of TICK, TICK, BOOM is set to debut this holiday season!!! The new movie will be coming to Netflix later this year. With Lin-Manuel Miranda (who appeared in the Encores production) making his film directorial debut, the cast is set to star…..
Tony winner & Oscar nominee Andrew Garfield as “Jon”,
Tony nominee Robin De Jesus as “Michael”,
acclaimed singer & actress Alexandra Shipp as “Susan”.
The film will also feature several new characters inspired by real life people in Jonathan’s life. Additional casting will include…..
acclaimed screen & stage star Vanessa Hudgens as “Karessa Johnson”,
Tony nominee Joshua Henry as “Roger”,
Tony & Emmy winner Judith Light as “Rosa Stevens”,
Production on the film began early in 2020 before being abruptly shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic back in March 2020. With safety protocols underway, the new film resumed production later this past Fall 2020.
We cannot wait for this new film which is very relatable with artists struggling wanting to make it and how society can turn people down.
Any TICK, TICK, BOOM fans out there?
Mike Haber
Author: Mike Haber

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