The Writer Of Rent's OTHER Play Returns To London

Tick, tick… BOOM!, Bridge House Theatre ★★★☆☆

Sophia Shluger
By Sophia Shluger Last edited 10 months ago

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The Writer Of Rent's OTHER Play Returns To London Tick, tick… BOOM!, Bridge House Theatre 3
Photo: Jamie Scott-Smith

Everybody loves Rent, Jonathan Larson's mega-hit rock opera based on La Bohème. And everyone's about to love it even more, as Netflix have just optioned the rights to a filmed version directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Everybody also knows Larson died before Rent opened.

Another of his shows he never got to see on a major stage was Tick, Tick... Boom! In this story, ageing without accomplishing is top of mind for John. He dreams of producing a great rock musical but is distracted by his girlfriend's dreams of leaving the city and the temptation of getting a real job like good friend Mike has. As you might have already guessed from that description, the play was a largely autobiographical work for Larson.

The simplistic title is a dead giveaway — this is a work in progress. Humour is light and the score lacks finesse and meaning (a song about a green dress anyone?); as a result some songs comes off disjointed with irrelevant lyrics and schmaltzy bravado. The helpless propensity to seek Rent musical references may also overshadow the action at hand among die-hard Rent fans.

Photo: Jamie Scott-Smith

However the commitment and intimacy of the exceptional cast of three, who play a total of 10 characters, give the story backbone. Unaided by the tiny, static set, sound effects and lighting swiftly and convincingly shift the mood and locale from a NYC rooftop to a bustling restaurant at brunch time.

Among the highlights are John's heartfelt fourth wall breaking introspections that showcase the best of Larson's writing. This also lends credence to the neurotic anxiety of the show's title and moves it along when it starts feeling long midway.

But the real narrative 'explosion' that occurs toward show end in an unexpected character reveal gives critical importance to the drama. While worthwhile, it definitely doesn't hold a candle to the gravitas of what came next.

Tick, tick… BOOM!, Bridge House Theatre, 2 High Street, Penge, SE20. Tickets £12 -£18, until 27 October 2019.

Last Updated 16 October 2019