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Southern Florida by John Lariviere


tick, tick ... BOOM!

Also see John's review of Cock


Sabrina Lynn Gore, Mike Westrich
and Jerel Brown

Outré Theatre Company presents the Jonathan Larson musical tick, tick ... BOOM! at the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center. Originally entitled 30/90 (and later Boho Days), this rock monologue, written in 1991, is a musical about writing a musical. The show was written by Larson as a response to his feelings of rejection caused by the disappointment of his previous work entitled Superbia in 1989. The original production of what was to become tick, tick ... BOOM! was performed Off-Broadway at the Village Gate in Greenwich Village, as well as at the Second Stage Theater, then on the Upper West Side. Larson began to perform the piece as a solo work in 1990. After his death in 1996, it was revised and revamped by playwright David Auburn as a 90 minute, three-actor piece and premiered Off-Broadway in 2001. It was Larson's production in 1990 that first led to the recognition of the work of the man that would go on to forever change the face of American musical theatre with his 1996 rock musical Rent.

The work of American composer and playwright Jonathan Larson (1960-1996) includes the musicals Sacrimmoralinority (retitled Saved! - An Immoral Musical on the Moral Majority), Superbia, tick, tick ... BOOM!, and Rent, as well as music for "Sesame Street," the children's book cassettes of "An American Tail" and "Land Before Time," and four songs for the children's video Away We Go!. Through Jonathan Larson died unexpectedly at the age of 35, the morning of Rent's first preview performance Off-Broadway, he received three posthumous Tony Awards and a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for Drama. His work is rightfully noted for exploring the serious social issues of multiculturalism, addiction, and homophobia.

tick, tick . . . Boom tells the story of an aspiring composer named Jon (Mike Westrich) who lives in New York City. As he is nearing his 30th birthday he worries about both his aging and his lack of achievement. Though blessed with an understanding girlfriend named Susan (Sabrina Lynn Gore) and a supportive best friend named Michael (Jerel Brown), Jon is worried he has made the wrong career choice, to be part of the performing arts. As his birthday rapidly approaches he is struggling to complete his musical entitled Superbia for its scheduled showcase. With his dancer-turned-dance-instructor girlfriend, and actor-turned-corporate-executive best friend taking steps toward more stable lives, Jon is plagued with doubts as he hears the "tick, tick, ticking" of his own internal clock growing unbearably louder.

The tale is indeed autobiographical as Larson worked on the musical Superbia Between 1983 and 1990. It was originally intended as a futuristic rock retelling of George Orwell's book "Nineteen Eighty-Four," though the Orwell estate denied him permission to adapt the novel itself. Superbia won the Richard Rodgers Production Award and the Richard Rodgers Development Grant. However, despite performances at Playwrights Horizons and a rock concert version produced at the Village Gate in September 1989, Superbia was not fully produced.

Outré staged a concert version of tick, tick ... BOOM! just last year, with two of the same cast members (Westrich and Gore) featured in this production. While both the set (ramps and a piano) and the staging for this production approach disappointment in their simplicity, the passion and commitment of the actors, particularly Westrich and Gore, is anything but disappointing. Westrich has an interesting edgy nerd take on the role of Jon, and his voice is undeniably agile and strong as he weaves his way through demanding plaintive melodic lines and rock riffs without a sign of tiring.

Sabrina Lynn Gore is sweet as girlfriend Susan even when her back is against the wall. She conveys a warm romantic connection with Westrich—though he needs to reciprocate it a bit more to make it fly. She also dashes on and off stage, donning a new accent and costume piece as she plays other characters, such as Jon's agent and mother. The song "Come To Your Senses" is a hidden jewel in this rock score, and Gore sings it with such feeling that I thought I saw the on stage pianist actually shed a tear on the night attended.

Jerel Brown is a bit less polished on stage than his cast mates, but has nice moments throughout the show. He is particularly funny as the grocery store counter cashier, cuts a dashing figure in shirt and tie, and seems like he holds onto his harmonies well in group numbers.

A live four-piece on-stage band plays the rock score well, avoiding the heavy hand on percussion and guitar that can be deadly to balance with the singers in a space such as this. The work itself is not as musically evolved as Rent, and some songs have stronger structure and purpose than others. One of the most entertaining moments in the show is "Sunday", which is a send-up of the song "Sunday" written by Stephen Sondheim for his 1984 musical Sunday in the Park with George. The song stays very close to Sondheim's melody, whose lyrics speak of a day spent on the Island of Grand Jatte. Larson's version instead describe a day at brunch in SoHo. In real life Sondheim would often write letters of recommendation for Larson to various producers, and Larson later won the Stephen Sondheim Award.

The key to the modern repertoire offered by this theatre company is providing it with heart and truth. All the production gimmicks in the world cannot replace the satisfying theatrical experience born of these things. Providing unusual contemporary works in a market that clamors for only what has been on Broadway in the last two years, or what has been done successfully before is a challenge. Hopefully, Outré will continue to meet this challenge in the future as respectably as they have met the challenges of this production of tick, tick ... BOOM!.

The Outré Theatre production of tick, tick ... BOOM! will be appearing through June 9, 2013, at the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center Studio Theatre. The Studio Theatre is located at 201 Plaza Real, at the south end of Mizner Park, in Boca Raton, Florida (the former site of the International Museum of Cartoon Art). Show times are Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm, and Sunday at 5:00 pm.. For tickets and information you may call them at 954-300-2149 or reach them online at outretheatrecompany.com.

The Outré Theatre Company began in 2011. They are an emerging professional theatre company hiring local Equity, and non-Equity actors and actresses. Their vision is to be a theatre that nurtures the creative spirit of individuals and the community, through original and established works, utilizing a variety of mediums to engage the souls and imaginations of the artists and the audience. Their mission is to create theatre which stimulates thought, provokes reflection, and encourages activism.

Cast:
Johnny: Mike Westrich
Susan: Sabrina Lynn Gore
Michael: Jerel Brown

Crew:
Director: Skye Whitcomb
Music Director: Kristen Long
Scenic Design: Nori Tecosky and Skye Whitcomb
Lighting Design: Stephanie Howard
Sound Design: Danny Butler
Stage Manager: Giordan Diaz


See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere



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