REVIEW: tick tick… BOOM!

I’m just back from the Union Theatre’s new production of tick tick… BOOM! and I have to say, I am buzzing somewhat.

The basic premise of the show is that Jon is an aspiring musical theatre composer who is getting nowhere fast, feeling a little trapped by the mundane machine of life and who suddenly finds himself in the last few days of his 20s; dreading the onset of his 30th Birthday.

Written by Jonathan Larson (who later went on to write the smash musical RENT), it is a largely autobiographical piece and, for me, the staging was such as I was able to pick up on this from the very first note. Knowing Larson’s back-story made this especially poignant for me, SUPERBIA was a real musical, which failed to come to fruition in 1989 after many years of hard work. It would have been very interesting to see tick tick… BOOM! as the one-man-“rock-monologue” that it was originally devised to be prior to its popular reinvention in 2001 into the show we see today.

This was my first trip over to the Union Theatre in Southwark and I have to say, I found it very enjoyable. A rather quirky performance space, but very bohemian, and perfect for a production of something by Larson, such as tick tick… BOOM!

To cut straight to the chase, the main selling point  to the show has to be the outstanding cast.

I really liked Ashley Campbell who played Jon. I thought he was superb and, as the only character who is on stage constantly, really helped to drive the show. I also really liked the way that he moved around the stage and found him delightful to watch. The fact that he’s also rather attractive has not clouded my judgement in any way…. honest! 🙂

Leanne Jones as Susan was a real treat, especially for someone such as I who enjoyed seeing her in Hairspray (which I saw 8 times!). I thought she managed to shrug off and move away from the image of her portrayal of Tracy Turnblad very well and came across as completely credible, mature and wonderfully emotive. That girl really knows how to act! Really marvellous to watch her.

Adam Rhys-Davies was also good at playing Michael and helped to keep the show ticking along nicely (excuse the pun!). I do have a few issues with this character, but this is more to do with the book than anything else, and certainly not a reflection on the actor – I feel that when David Auburn split the show into a three-part show following Larson’s death, perhaps he could have developed the character a little further/deeper, especially when Michael gets his awful news, which felt a little glossed over if I am honest.

Musically, I loved the fact that this is just the actors and a piano. Nothing else. My friend theatreJunki mentioned afterwards that he missed the drums and guitar from the original cast recordings, however I thought that stripping the music back even further, to just be a piano, added to the intimacy and delicacy of the piece, and really gave the show a sense of reality – I could imagine that this combination of piano and vocal would have been just what Larson heard when he was scoring the show (although the finished score was specifically written by Larson to be played by a rock band).

Lyrically and musically, I found the soundtrack to be wonderful. It has lyrics that are honest, thought-provoking and observant, it really spoke to me. The lyric “cages or wings, which do you prefer?” was my favourite I think. The piano riffs are divine, and I love the way that some of the songs are harmonised. I can’t name a duff song from the score, simply because I don’t think that there is one!

The show itself isn’t long in duration by any stretch, and I thought that the three cast members and the staging behind the production managed to use the limited space very well and kept it from getting tired. I really liked the intimacy of the venue, and that you were able to look directly into the eyes of the performers. It really added a kick of reality to the whole thing.

All in all, I had a marvellous time at the Union Theatre and really enjoyed this production. I’d love to go back and see it again before it either transfers or closes.

tick tick… BOOM! is currently playing at the Union Theatre, Southwark until Saturday 5th June 2010. Performances are Tuesday – Saturday 19:30, Sunday 14:30. For more information, please visit their website.

– Just to add my apologies to anyone who heard me suppressing a coughing fit right towards the end of the show, alas I always seem to get these in such situations and typically right at the quietest and most emotive parts of a production – I tried to suffer in silence, but apologies if I disrupted you! (I think I was sat behind ‘the parents’) 🙂

– my thanks go to theatreJunki for inviting me to be his +1. Normally I get invited to shows off my own back (I’m not used to being the +1 heh!), however as this was a small venue that we don’t deal with, it was an exception and so I’m very chuft that he asked me to come along! 🙂

– I should also probably apologise to both Leanne and Ashley – in the bar afterwards, I managed to get stood right in front of the auditorium doors and wrong-footed both of them as they exited heh. Hopefully no lasting damage was done! 😉

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About Gari

Thirty-Two year old northern lad; living out in the Peak District and rediscovering life after having had a brain tumour.

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