Tick, Tick... Boom!
An aspiring composer questions his life choices on the eve of his thirtieth birthday in Jonathan Larson's autobiographical musical.
Show Essentials
3
Roles
PG13
Rated
1
Act

Full Synopsis

At the start of the show, in black, a ticking can be heard.... It is the sound of one man's mounting anxiety. That man is Jon. He's a promising composer whose agent won't return his calls, who is barely affording the rent on his apartment at the edge of SoHo and who is on the verge of turning thirty ("Thirty/Ninety").

Enter Jon's two friends: Michael, his roommate, who has recently given up acting but is now a successful marketing executive, and Susan, his girlfriend, who is a relatively successful ballet teacher and wants Jon to play "Happy Birthday" on the piano at his own party. Jonathan is fretting about the upcoming workshop of Superbia, the musical that he's been writing for five years, when Susan tries to comfort him, wearing a slinky, sultry, sexy dress ("Green Green Dress").

The next morning, Jon is unable to sleep. Susan then reveals that she wants to leave New York and make a decent life for herself with Jon in Cape Cod, somewhere by the beach. Michael has also been pressuring Jon to come interview at his firm. Jon likes neither option ("Johnny Can't Decide"), but he likes his current job even less – waiting tables at a diner for brunch on a strangely Sondheimian day ("Sunday").

After work, Michael picks Jon up in his new BMW and takes him to see his new Upper East Side apartment. It's still being remodeled, but soon he won't have any of the grime, crowds and bad plumbing that make bohemian life both exasperating and exhilarating ("No More"). Jon finally agrees to interview at Michael's firm.

In the middle of Jon's weekly conversation with his parents from White Plains, his agent finally gets back to him. She is trying to get "interesting people" to come to Jon's workshop. Jon sits down to write when Susan calls, inviting Jon over. He wants to stay home and write, which leads to a fight. Painfully mindful of each other's feelings, Jon and Susan are careful not to step on one another's toes ("Therapy").

On his way to Michael's office the next morning, Jon wanders through Times Square, wondering if his work will ever end up on Broadway. At Michael's office, Jon is asked to participate in a "creative-process-unlocking session" for the naming of a new no-calorie replacement for cooking fat. The process is extenuated, pretentious and more than a little bit painful. Jon, who just wants to name the product already, becomes more and more snide until he manages to get himself kicked out.

Michael is furious at Jon. He doesn't see this as a game or a show to rewrite ("Real Life"). Michael, who is gay, envies Jon for his chance at a marriage, family and normal existence. Jon heads to rehearsal for Superbia, and stops for a pick-me-up ("Sugar"). Caught in the act of buying Twinkies by his show's lead actress, Karessa, he is relieved to discover that she shares his addiction.

Following a successful rehearsal, Jon arrives home to find Susan packing. She has a job offer, teaching "real dancers" in Northampton, Massachusetts. It's for two weeks, but could evolve into something more permanent. Jon doesn't want to stop her from pursuing her dreams, but he also doesn't want to let her go ("See Her Smile").

The day of the workshop arrives. Michael and Susan sit in to offer support. Jon's dad, his agent and a composer/lyricist so famous that he cannot be named are also in attendance. The show begins, and Karessa sings her solo; a soaring rock ballad ("Come to Your Senses"). Everyone tells Jon that the reading went wonderfully... but nobody wants to produce the show.

Jon is devastated. He goes to Michael's office to beg for a job, but Michael tells him not to give up. Frustrated, Jon screams that Michael doesn't understand what it's like to be afraid of the future. Michael subsequently reveals that he is HIV-positive. Shocked at this news, Jon runs to Central Park, unable to cope. He thinks about his past with Michael, all of the shows that they did together and of all the fun that they had ("Why?").

He realizes that life is short and writing is the only way that he wants to fill it. Finally, it's the birthday party, and Jon is turning thirty ("Thirty/Ninety – Reprise"). He makes up with Michael and says goodbye to Susan. To cap things off, Stephen Sondheim calls to congratulate Jon on his reading and invites him to lunch. Then the cake comes, and Jon is led to the piano to finally play his anthem for all to hear ("Louder than Words").

Casting

Casting

Cast Size: Small (Up to 10 performers)
Cast Type: Ensemble Cast
Dance Requirements: None

Character Breakdown

Jon
A struggling composer on the brink of his 30th birthday. Michael's roommate and Susan's boyfriend.
Gender: male
Age: 25 to 30
Vocal range top: A4
Vocal range bottom: A2
Michael
A former actor-turned-market research executive. He is Jon's roommate and best friend. Character Doublings include: COUNTER GUY, DAD, and MARKET RESEARCH GUY.
Gender: male
Age: 25 to 35
Vocal range top: Gb4
Vocal range bottom: Bb2
Susan
A dancer and Jon's girlfriend. Sexy, kind, independent. Character Doublings include: KARESSA, ROSA, JUDY, and MOM.
Gender: female
Age: 20 to 30
Vocal range top: D5
Vocal range bottom: A3
Full Song List
Tick, Tick... Boom!: 30/90
Tick, Tick... Boom!: Green Green Dress
Tick, Tick... Boom!: Johnny Can't Decide
Tick, Tick... Boom!: Sunday
Tick, Tick... Boom!: No More
Tick, Tick... Boom!: Therapy
Tick, Tick... Boom!: Real Life
Tick, Tick... Boom!: Sugar
Tick, Tick... Boom!: See Her Smile
Tick, Tick... Boom!: Come to Your Senses
Tick, Tick... Boom!: Why?
Tick, Tick... Boom!: Louder Than Words

Show History

Inspiration

Tick, Tick... Boom! was originally presented as a "rock monologue" entitled Boho Days and performed by composer/lyricist, Jonathan Larson, as an autobiographical look at his dream of leaving his mark on the musical theatre landscape. Larson was working on Boho Days at about the same time that he was writing the landmark musical, Rent, although, of course, his tragic death meant that he did not live to see his dream become a reality.

Productions

Tick, Tick... Boom! was first seen September 6-9, 1990, at a workshop at Second Stage Theater under the title, Boho Days, by budding composer and lyricist, Jonathan Larson. After that mounting, Larson continued to hone the piece, and several different versions emerged, including one at the Village Gate Theater in 1991, and again at the "O Solo Mio" festivals at the New York Theater Workshop in 1992 and 1993. The title eventually became Tick, Tick... Boom! Further productions then took a back seat for the better part of the 1990s due to the untimely death of Larson, just as his other musical, Rent, debuted and skyrocketed to success.

After some retooling by friend and production partner, Victoria Leacock, and playwright, David Auburn, the Off-Broadway production of Tick, Tick... Boom! began previews at the Jane Street Theatre on May 23, 2001, officially opening on June 13, 2001. The show was directed by Scott Schwartz, and starred Raul Esparza as the aspiring composer, Jon, Amy Spanger as his girlfriend, Susan, and Jerry Dixon as best friend, Michael.

Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, businesses and theatres in lower Manhattan struggled, and Tick, Tick... Boom! ended its run on January 6, 2002, after 215 performances. However, the show has had a very healthy post-New York life, including a 2003 National Tour, a 2005 UK production headlined by Neil Patrick Harris, countless regional and international mountings and the New York City Center production starring Lin-Manuel Miranda and Karen Olivo as part of its Encores! series.

Cultural Influence

  • It was Tick, Tick... Boom! that brought Jonathan Larson to the attention of producer, Jeffrey Seller, and, when Seller later saw the NYTW production of Larson's Rent, he convinced his fellow producers to bring that groundbreaking musical to Broadway.
  • The success of the 2001 Off-Broadway bow led to an original cast album released on RCA Victor in September 2001.

Trivia

  • Tick, Tick... Boom! was nominated for seven Drama Desk Awards, including Oustanding Musical, Outstanding Lyrics, Outstanding Music and Outstanding Book of a Musical, as well as for a Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical.
  • At one point, the show was titled 30/90, in reference to Larson's reaching that momentous age in 1990.
  • Larson's idol was fellow musical theatre composer, Stephen Sondheim, and he made several winks to Sondheim throughout Tick, Tick... Boom!
  • It was David Auburn who, using Larson's numerous notes and versions of the show, turned the musical into a three-character piece, rather than the one-man show that it was originally written to be.

Critical Reaction

"Larson's gift for brilliant lyrics and driving music is clear in each of the score's 12 winning songs."
– Chicago Sun Times

"Charming... loveable."
– Talkin' Broadway

"Searingly honest, frank, and unabashedly personal."
– Chicago Tribune

"Stunning stuff."
– Huffington Post

"A valentine to the creative spirit itself."
– Denver Post

Drama Desk Award

2001 - Outstanding Musical, Nominee (Tick, Tick...Boom)
2001 - Outstanding Actor in a Musical, Nominee (Raul Esparza)
2001 - Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical, Nominee (Jerry Dixon)
2001 - Outstanding Direction of a Musical, Nominee (Scott Schwartz)
2001 - Outstanding Book of a Musical, Nominee (David Auburn & Jonathan Larson)
2001 - Outstanding Music, Nominee (Jonathan Larson)
2001 - Outstanding Lyrics, Nominee (Jonathan Larson)

Obie Award

2001 - Outstanding Performance, Winner (Raul Esparza)

Outer Critics Circle Award

2001 - Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical, Winner (Tick, Tick... Boom!)

Connect

Billing

Requirements

You must give the authors/creators billing credits, as specified in the Production Contract, in a conspicuous manner on the first page of credits in all programs and on houseboards, displays and in all other advertising announcements of any kind.
Percentages listed indicate required type size in relation to title size.
TICK, TICK... BOOM! 
(100%)
 
Book, Music and Lyrics by
(50%)
JONATHAN LARSON 
(50%)
 
David Auburn, Script Consultant
(45%)
 
Vocal Arrangements and Orchestrations by Stephen Oremus
(45%)
 
Tick, Tick... Boom! was originally produced off-Broadway in June, 2001 by
(33%)
Victoria Leacock      Robyn Goodman
(33%)
Dede Harris      Lorie Cowen Levy      Beth Smith
(33%)
The videotaping or other video or audio recording of this production is strictly prohibited

Included Materials

ItemQuantity Included
ERRATA LIST1
LIBRETTO/VOCAL BOOK8
PIANO CONDUCTOR'S SCORE2

Production Resources

Resource
LOGO PACK
LOGO PACK DIGITAL
LOGO TEES SIX-PACK ADULT LARGE
LOGO TEES SIX-PACK ADULT MEDIUM
LOGO TEES SIX-PACK ADULT SMALL
LOGO TEES SIX-PACK ADULT X-LARGE
LOGO TEES SIX-PACK ADULT XX-LARGE
LOGO TEES SIX-PACK CHILD LARGE
LOGO TEES SIX-PACK CHILD MEDIUM
LOGO TEES SIX-PACK CHILD SMALL
PRODUCTIONPRO
REFERENCE RECORDING
TRANSPOSITIONS-ON-DEMAND

STANDARD ORCHESTRATION

InstrumentationDoubling
BASS
DRUMS
GUITARACOUSTIC GUITAR , ELECTRIC GUITAR