tick, tick… BOOM!

The Garden Club, 13b Dixon Street, Wellington

25/02/2009 - 28/02/2009

NZ Fringe Festival 2009

Production Details

Wellington’s Garden Club will return to its origins as a theatre for the 2009 Fringe Festival as it plays host to a musical that proves Broadway can truly rock!

The former location of Wellington Repertory Theatre, now a popular dance venue, seemed the perfect place for Energy Theatre to stage their latest production, tick, tick… BOOM! by Jonathan Larson, author of the blockbuster Broadway musical, RENT.

"We wanted a venue that was accessible to a new generation of theatre fans, so a dance club that used to be a theatre was ideal" says director Matt Bentley. "Larson was really the first composer to write musicals for the MTV generation. He would have loved The Garden Club."

tick, tick… BOOM! is Jonathan Larson’s autobiographical tale of a young composer on the brink of turning 30 and falling into oblivion. His girlfriend wants to get married and move out of the city (tick,), his best friend is making big bucks on Madison Avenue (tick…), yet Jon is still waiting on tables and trying to write the great American musical (BOOM!).

"I think everyone reaches a point where they need to decide which direction to take in life" says Matt. "For Jonathan Larson it was when he turned 30, and that feeling was so strong he had to write about it."

Larson is best known for RENT, a show about eight New Yorkers in the early 90s. Larson sadly passed away the night before RENT was due to open, but the show became a hit that has been seen by millions and was released as a film in 2005.

"Jonathan Larson wrote real rock music that spoke to so many people. I think that’s why RENT was such a phenomenon. In tick, tick… BOOM! we get a rare opportunity to see what else he wrote and to appreciate the amazing talent he had" says Matt.

tick, tick… BOOM! stars Sam Benton, Rachel Day and Martin Brown, and runs from 25-28 February, 7:30pm at The Garden Club. Energy Theatre gratefully acknowledges the Creative Communities programme for their support.

Feb 25-28 2009, 7:30pm
The Garden Club, 13b Dixon Street
Tickets: Adult $22 / Concession $19 / Fringe Addicts $16
TO BOOK: www.downstage.co.nz or ph. 801 6946

Fear of hitting 30

Review by Michael Wray 26th Feb 2009

Jonathan Larson, the writer of Broadway musical Rent, wrote Tick, Tick… Boom as a single-hander. It was posthumously adapted to fit three performers by David Auburn.  

The sound you are hearing is not a technical problem.. It is the sound of one man’s mounting anxiety. Tick, tick, tick… The sound is that of a clock counting down a man’s life and the clock stops at 30. Of course, in real life the clock doesn’t stop. Its volume merely fades before restarting its inexorable countdown to 40, then 50, then 60 and so on until the clock stops for real.

The late-20s angst and New York setting made the show feel a bit like a Friends musical. It wouldn’t have been a stretch to see this as Joey, Chandler and Rachel up on stage. As if to reinforce the Friends association, the character of the agent is played as a carbon copy of Joey’s agent Estelle. I couldn’t help but wonder whether the show could have been reset to Wellington or if that would have caused too many problems for song lyrics.

Jon, played by Sam Benton, is having a bit of an early mid-life crisis. He’s got a lot going on. He’s not only a mere week away from facing his big three-O, Jon has a career-defining new musical about to receive its first public workshop, a best friend who thinks he should leave the arts for a job in marketing and a girlfriend who wants to move from New York City to Cape Cod.

I don’t know much about Cape Cod, but it seems to be the equivalent of leaving Wellington City for, say, Otaki. Not necessarily a bad place to be, but hardly a good move for someone trying to get a major musical staged.

Jon’s girlfriend is Sue, played by Rachel Day, and best friend Michael is played by Martin Brown. Both Day and Brown are assigned a variety of smaller supporting roles. They even get to share one role!

Michael is an actor who has long since abandoned his theatrical dreams, carving out a successful career in marketing. With his wealth, flash apartment and luxurious BMW, he provides the voice of temptation for Jon to do the same. When Jon gives in to the request to attend an interview workshop, the play’s funniest scene is created.

The set is simple, with minimal furniture that is easily moved aside whenever the actors are to dance to the songs. The back wall features monochrome pictures representing various facets of New York life. I didn’t notice until well into the show, but for each scene one picture would be backlit to indicate the location.

The musical numbers are what I would call typical songs for a musical – a bit easy-listening and not especially memorable. I realise that’s personal taste talking and my taste in music is not particularly easy.  However, only a few hours since the show I cannot recall any of the songs (yet some of the songs from NZ musicals such as Troy stick in my head even now).

The ending is predictable, but hey – it’s a musical, it’s supposed to be predictable, right? It certainly doesn’t stop it being enjoyable, so grab the nearest 29 year old and take them along.

With the showing being somewhat autobiographical, I was curious to know whether the musical within the plot, Superbia, was itself a reference to a real musical. The answer is yes – it was an adaptation of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four that Larson abandoned after a few performances.


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