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December 07th, 2021

tick tick boom spotlight pageCourtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


Broadway composer Jonathan Larson’s career was headed in an upward trajectory before his untimely death at the age of 35 from an aortic aneurysm. Before his death, and continuing today, however, he has been able to make a mark on the musical theatre world. One of his works that was able to be produced before his passing was his autobiographical rock monologue “tick, tick ... BOOM!” which follows Larson’s journey of trying to get a show produced while also facing turning 30. 

The show was recently turned into a movie, which was recently released on Netflix. I’d only very briefly heard of the show itself in the past, so I went into watching it blind Friday night rather blind, which ultimately ended up being a benefit. 

The first thing I have to give praise to with this movie is the cast, beginning with Andrew Garfield in the lead role as Jonathan. He perfectly captures that desire to make a mark on the world while maintaining his personal life, all while freaking out about turning 30 and not having accomplished what he’s wanted to quite yet. Garfield disappears into becoming Larson and made me feel pretty much every emotion under the sun throughout the movie. His vocals with the film’s musical numbers are also done very well, and I was very impressed with how much passion and emotion he was able to put into all of the songs – my favorite song of his in the movie was “Why” after he finds out some distressing news about a close friend because there is just so much to process. He’s truly able to show that combination of frustration, temptation, confidence and love of the art he’s trying to create. Much like Taron Egerton in “Rocketman” a couple years ago, I would be EXTREMELY surprised if Garfield didn’t at least receive some nominations during awards season for this role, because he definitely deserves some recognition. 

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Another standout for me was Robin De Jesus as Jonathan’s friend, Michael. He provides not only some comic relief throughout the movie but also some moments that keep Jonathan grounded and make him realize there other things he needs to focus on. He doesn’t have THAT much screentime, but what screentime he does have, he makes the most of it. Vanessa Hudgens and Alexandra Shipp also do a great job with their duet “Come To Your Senses” later in the movie. Overall, the cast did a great job and everyone has some great moments where they shine.

Something else I really liked about the movie is how it’s a few different stories in one. It’s not only a biopic about a very talented artist who was taken WAY before his time, but also a story about the highs and lows of the overall creative process that happen with any artist past or present, which is quite refreshing because I feel like more often than not, stories about artists make the journey almost too easy, when that’s just not the case for a lot of people. This is especially shown in a scene when Jonathan is told by his agent there were no production offers for his show that’s taken several years of his life to put together. 

The movie is also a coming-of-age story as Jonathan comes to terms with turning 30 (which, admittedly, I had to just slightly scoff at since I actually turned 30 earlier this year). It’s also a story about legacy and wanting to leave your mark on the world, which everyone thinks about at some point in their life. It’s a handful of stories woven into one movie, and the end result is very well done. With the original stage show, I’m not sure how Larson was able to turn those parts of his life story into one cohesive package, but the movie does a great job going between Larson performing and the parts of his story he’s referring to during his show. 

I also overall liked the musical number performances throughout the movie. They were all performed very well and I’ve already listened to the movie’s soundtrack a handful of times ... including while writing up this column. Larson’s music and lyrics are great and certainly should leave people thinking afterward. My overall favorite song from the movie is the finale, “Louder Than Words.” There is just so much depth to the lyrics, and the driving rock beat just help hammer everything home – find it on YouTube or find the lyrics online, and there are so many aspects of that song that could apply to today’s world. Overall, it’s just all very well done, and I’m sure there will be a few more listens of the soundtrack in the near future. 

Overall, I very much enjoyed watching “tick, tick ... BOOM!” and I would give it a solid ‘A’ grade. The cast is fantastic, particularly leading man Andrew Garfield as Jonathan, bu all the cast members do a great job. I also enjoyed how the movie is actually a few stories in one, and the musical numbers themselves were really well done. If you’re a musical theatre fan, this is definitely a good one to cue up.


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