Review: Tick Tick Boom by 9 Works Theatrical
Tick, Tick… Boom!” is a semi-autobiographical musical written by Rent writer and composer Jonathan Larson. The show was originally created as a ‘rock monologue’ by Larson before his tragic death prior to Rent’s first preview. Before being revamped by playwright David Auburn after Larson’s death, the show took the form of a ‘rock monologue’ which Larson performed under a different title. It has been staged several times all over the world, including a run Off-Broadway, in London’s West End, as well as Manila productions in 2002 and 2009.
Tick, Tick… Boom! begins by immersing the audience in darkness and silence for a few seconds before you hear the sound of ticking. What you hear is Jon (Jef Flores)’s anxiety manifested in the form of sound, which also happens to be the element in which his life revolves around. An aspiring composer on the cusp of his 30s, Jon finds himself stuck, and as he achieves nothing substantial, life and those closest to him are quickly passing by. His girlfriend Susan (Tanya Manalang) wants to move out of New York for a more quiet life and better opportunities, and his best friend Michael (Ariel Reonal) just landed a job in corporate. All of these weigh heavy on Jon’s mind as he struggles with crossing over to the next stage of adulthood.
Comedy is not this show’s strong suit, and while one might argue that Tick, Tick… Boom! is a drama and not a comedy, for a show that is strongest in its dramatic moments, it certainly had a shortage of them. For most of the show, the events that take place and the songs that accompany them don’t elicit sympathy from the audience. It is for this reason that when the final quarter pulls out all the emotional stops, you’re not invested enough in the characters to care. Auburn’s writing suffers, in that there is too much information that adds nothing to the story.
The lighting in the show left much to be desired, what with it’s jarring and choppy transitions. In “Come To Your Senses”, Manalang is left in the dark, but not in a way that serves the events taking place onstage. As for the set design, it was rather simple, and although there was one set piece that broke this simplicity, it seemed to serve no purpose: fragmented circles, floating motionlessly above the actors.
Jef Flores’ performance was, for the most part, uneven. Throughout the show, his voice was tested in songs that required him to sing at the top of his lungs, and it was evident that he doesn’t have a very powerful voice. Flores really shines in the more restrained songs, especially in his penultimate number “Why”. The same can be said for his acting, which is heart wrenching in the somber scenes, but lacking in conviction for most of the show, which presents more issues, seeing as he is onstage for the entirety of the show and narrating all throughout.
Tanya Manalang’s voice is fantastic, as evidenced by her show-stopping rendition of “Come To Your Senses”, and she has an undeniable knack for portraying tragedy. However, her comedic timing could use some improvement. While Ariel Reonal undeniably has the stamina of five men and a killer voice to boot, his performance was overly synthetic. Reonal put on an accent that was clearly forced, and took away from whatever sincerity he tried to convey.
The songs in Tick, Tick… Boom! are inconsistent in their strength, ranging from the poignant songs ”Why” and “Come To Your Senses”, to the hilarious song “Therapy”, and the odious, “Sunday”. While “Therapy” and “Come To Your Senses” either help move the story along or evoke emotions with a song of lost love, “Sunday” and “Green Green Dress” — wherein Jon has an entire number dedicated to how good a dress makes Susan look — are far too expository, and consequently bland.
Overall, Tick, Tick… Boom! is simply too self-preoccupied. Larson’s tendency to use his own life as inspiration for his musicals ends up becoming this show’s greatest weakness. There is simply too much the audience cannot relate to, whether or not they are artists. The show’s elucidative songs far outnumber those which contain actual substance and conflict, and its characters aren’t always successful in their attempts to captivate the audience.
Tick, Tick… Boom! certainly has its bright spots, but a few catchy songs aren’t enough to save it from unbalanced performances, an over-indulgent book, and an evident lack of coherent direction.
Photography by: Erickson dela Cruz