Review: Tick, Tick…Boom!

The tick, tick, ticking that can be heard at the beginning of Jonathan (RENT) Larson’s autobiographical musical is not some fault in the machinery, we are assured, but instead the palpable sound of one person’s mounting detonating anxiety.  Well he gets that right at least; as a cavalcade of mundane melodies full of banal platitudes bombards the stage in the interminable Tick, Tick…Boom!, this person definitely feels like exploding.

Jon is a wannabe composer of rock musicals on the cusp of his 30th birthday, feeling the pressure of a pre mid-life crisis.  Girlfriend Susan wants to move out of New York to a place with a washing machine, and best friend Michael has progressed to a desk job that comes with 3 Gucci belts and a BMW as standard.  Should Jon jump on their bandwagon and sell out or stick to his artistic principles?

The main problem with Tick, Tick…Boom! is that whilst there are a few smiles to be raised in industry parodies it does very little to make you care about our hero’s impending cataclysmic decision; these people just aren’t engaging.  Add that to Larson’s irritating 3rd person narrative, Damian Sandys’ mediocre direction and the frankly bizarre central performance of Ashley Campbell as Jon and you have a mess of an evening that not only bores but actively irritates.

Campbell seems like a man on the edge, his cartoonish persona teetering with wide eyed adrenalin from boyfriend to best friend, from canned laughter to grotesque emotional breakdown.  His instability makes it impossible for Leanne Jones and Adam Rhys-Davies to settle into any kind of rhythm, leaving them as nothing but translucent ciphers to his neurotic juggernaut.   

Whilst Jones delivers the strongest performance of the evening, showing at points real integrity in an otherwise superficial scenario, all of the cast seem to struggle with the vocals and Richard Bates’ musical direction feels increasingly frayed around the edges. On top of all this the sound levels are as off kilter as Campbell’s performance. 

Rebecca Channon’s half baked white set lacks any sense of polish and it can’t be a good thing when the musical bars that surround the stage begin to take on a very different meaning after about 5 minutes in.

With a poor book, average score and way off key production, this Tick, Tick….Boom! is one bomb which has resolutely refused to go off; the damage it inflicts however, is none-the-less all too painful.

Tick, Tick…Boom! runs until 5th June at The Union Theatre.

Written for Totally Theatre.


2 thoughts on “Review: Tick, Tick…Boom!

  1. After reading your damming and ill-informed review I felt obliged to reply. I have to ask were you watching the same show as the rest of the audience or did you completely zone off when watching to develop egotistical approach to this review and further create a rather warped image of this show?

    Tick Tick Boom being a challenging tough book and a somewhat of a cliché granted however through the admirable direction of Damian Sandys this musical was transformed into an exciting, fluid and well-choreographed interpretation. He fashioned REAL characters not just the stock stage stereotypes we are all so accustomed to and quite frankly getting bored of.

    Mr Campbell created a very real Jon; who may not necessarily be an exact portrayal of Larson but was still an identifiable body for anyone watching especially to industry professionals – which I think you’ll find was 90% of the audience. The fact that the people watching were ‘in the know’ only helps to exterminate the validity of their applause and ovation.

    The highly emotive breakdown Mr Campbell delivered evoked a river of emotions for audience members which was apparent by the number of people crying. His monologue seamlessly lead into his eternal rendition of ‘Why’; a certain tear jerker to say the least. It was clear from the tears streaming down his eyes that Mr Campbell is a reputable actor who flawlessly connected with the character of Jon.

    I would like to pass comment of your criticism of Richard Bates; firstly are you actually qualified to pass technical judgement on a man who has a very prestigious list of credits and a MASTERS degree in his profession, even you must have to admit to obtain a masters degree you have to be pretty good at what you do. Ms Jones attacked ‘Come to your Senses’ with abundant triumph turning a somewhat admitable boring song (well the soundtrack version at least) into an awe-inspiring ballad.

    Gliding onto my next point, where actually were you sitting? Backstage? Well you must have been for you to possibly pass comment on the ‘half baked white set’ as from the auditorium you couldn’t possibly say the set looked ‘half baked’. Unless of course you have some kind of x-ray or magical vision that allows you to see behind things where the back of the set was unpainted – you should really see an optician about that! Moreover if you felt trapped by the musical stave inferring it took on the resemblance of a cell well you must have really connected with the show as this is one of the driving themes behind Tick Tick Boom; the idea of Jon being trapped in his dreams and desires.

    To make the ludicrous supercilious critiques you do shows a vibrant naivety towards this remarkable production of Tick Tick Boom; it is a great shame the show has closed because I feel you need a definite re-visit! And one last question are to you man pictured in their logo as his melancholy expression matches the discouraging undertones of this review; you know I thought it was an actor pretending to ‘look down in the dumps’ but now it seems plausible it is just you – which explains a lot about your apparent lack of knowledge when it comes to theatre and the arts.

  2. My apologies for the delay in responding to you on this. I am sorry that I have caused so much consternation but I was only writing from a position that I felt to be true to me.

    Whilst it is fair enough to state that criticism is a matter of opinion (and you should recognise that your reaction to this piece was as relative as mine was) I truly felt that much of this production was not up to an impressive or even in some cases, passable standard.

    I am not sure who you saw crying because I did not see anyone do so, and no I was not sat backstage. I am only qualified to criticize as far as I am writing to recommend or not this show to a paying audience, and I would not ask anyone to part with money for this particular production. Perhaps my response was a trifle hard but when faced with incompetency such as this, it is difficult not to reflect it in one’s writing.

    However thank you for your comment – if it is ever put on again, I would be interested to see it to check if it was the musical itself or this production which was at fault – are you perhaps connected to either?


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