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Review of tick, tick… BOOM! at Park Theatre

Tick, tick…BOOM! at The Park Theatre is an energetic, explosive musical that doesn’t stop in pace for the whole ninety minutes. Sure, there are quieter moments, but the actors’ focus and commitment drive the show full force from beginning to end, sweeping the audience up into a time gone by: New York, 1990.

tick, tick... Boom!
Chris Jenkins, Jordan Shaw & Gillian Saker (l-r) in tick, tick… BOOM! at Park Theatre. Photo by Claire Bilyard

This musical is an autobiographical one, by Jonathan Larson of Rent fame. Fans of Rent will recognise many musical tricks, staging aspects, and even characters echoed here and as such, recognise Larson’s stylised way of creating.

The company of three actors all take this style and perform with ease, and with great chemistry. They radiate friendship as both characters and performers. Chris Jenkins plays Jonathan himself and does so brilliantly. Barely leaving the stage, his energy is fantastic, and he captures the struggling artist role perfectly. The audience feel for him and are with him all the way; he never once appears to be whining, just wishing and working hard. Jenkins has boundless energy and seamlessly moves between direct to audience address and solid fourth wall acting.

Gillian Saker plays Susan, Larson’s long-suffering girlfriend. Torn between her love for him and her needs for a life away from New York, Saker really shows the audience the pain she feels having to choose between them. The duet between Saker and Jenkins, Green Green Dress, is charming; their voices complement each other and the song really captures who they are as a couple. Saker has a wonderful singing voice; she covers a vast range throughout the show and displays great command of her technique.

Larson’s lifelong best friend, Michael, is played by Jordan Shaw. This character goes on a real journey, with some deeply emotional moments both in scene and song. Shaw plays out these all brilliantly, with a great depth and commitment. He has a great stage presence and brings a new life to every scene he enters.

The live four-piece band led by Gareth Bretherton are superb, and really lift the show, bringing that rock edge to it. The fast-paced direction from Bronagh Lagan maintains a high standard throughout, with some nice scene switches, multi-rolling, and slightly more cheesy song and dance numbers cleverly blended in. The choreography is by Philip Michael Thomas and is pitched just right for each number whether big or small. All of this, combined with the colourful, making-use-of-everything set by Nik Corrall (lighting by Ben M Rogers) this show is tight, well-rehearsed and a nice tribute to the much loved, hard working composer. Larson sadly passed away before the opening night of Rent on Broadway, and it is good to see how committed this team are to his work and what he stood for.

All in all, apart from a few sound issues at the beginning while the levels adjusted, this is a great production. It works very well in the space it’s in and the normality of these people and what they are going through is set just right. This rocky treat is certainly worth a watch.

4 stars

Revie by H Hemming

Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment and Joe C Brown in association with Park Theatre present
tick, tick… BOOM!
Book, Music and Lyrics by Jonathan Larson
Directed by Bronagh Lagan

Before Rent, there was tick, tick… BOOM!
An aspiring composer questions his life choices on the eve of his thirtieth birthday in Jonathan Larson’s autobiographical rock musical. The Pulitzer Prize and Tony award-winner tells the story of the sacrifices he made to achieve his big break in theatre.

His girlfriend wants to get married and move out of the city, his best friend is making big bucks on Madison Avenue and yet Jon is still waiting on tables and trying to write the great American musical. Set in 1990, this compelling story of personal discovery embraces the ideal of holding onto your dreams through life’s most difficult challenges.

Containing fourteen songs, ten characters, three actors and a band, tick, tick… BOOM! takes you on the journey that led to a Broadway blockbuster.
Performed by arrangement with Music Theatre International (Europe) Limited.

CAST
CHRIS JENKINS – JONATHAN
GILLIAN SAKER – SUSAN
JORDAN SHAW – MICHAEL

CREATIVE
PRODUCER – KATY LIPSON FOR ARIA ENTERTAINMENT
PRODUCER – JOE C BROWN
DIRECTOR – BRONAGH LAGAN
MUSICAL DIRECTOR – GARETH BRETHERTON
SET AND COSTUME DESIGNER – NIK CORRALL
LIGHTING DESIGNER – BEN ROGERS
CHOREOGRAPHER – CHRIS CUMING
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR – SAM RAYNER

Running to 27th May 2017
https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/

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