Big screen pays tribute to theatre trailblazer

Andrew Garfield in tick, tick ... Boom! (Netflix/Macall Polay)

Set in 1990, tick, tick … Boom! is a tribute to the life and music of Jonathan Larson, who wrote the Broadway success, Rent. Source: Australian Catholics.

The film is directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, a successful Broadway composer and performer in his own right (Hamilton, In the Heights). Larson died at age 35, just before Rent made its Broadway debut.

The title – and its accompanying ticking clock – was the name of Larson’s semi-autobiographical musical, set just before his 30th birthday. The film shows Larson’s desire to achieve fame – and fast, just like his Broadway hero Stephen Sondheim, who had his first success at age 27.

The framework of the film is a performance of his autobiography; Larson (Andrew Garfield) sits at a piano, narrating and singing, accompanied by two other singers and some musicians. Garfield portrays Larson as combination of genial friend and frustrated genius, who has anxiety about growing older without success.

Larson is composing a musical, Superbia, while working in a diner. He is desperate to finish writing the show for a special presentation in front of Broadway producers, hoping that it will greenlit for the stage.

Within the performance, there are scenes Larson at work at the diner, his friendship with Michael (Robin de Jesus), a gay man. As it's 1990, AIDS looms large. 

Larson has a girlfriend, Susan (Alexandra Shipp), who is needy for his support but hardly noticed because of his preoccupation with work.

While the story is that of the eager and hopeful composer, the strain and stress of preparing for the presentation, and its impressive presentation, in the background there is the ticking of that clock.

Reviewed by Fr Peter Malone, MSC

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tick, tick . . . Boom! (Australian Catholics

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