Ticking right along

Tick, Tick … Boom!

Admit it. You’d be obsessed with her even if she wasn’t wearing that dynamite green velvet dress.

Admit it. You’d be obsessed with her even if she wasn’t wearing that dynamite green velvet dress.

Photo By Brian Kameoka

Artisan Theatre

1901 Del Paso Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95815

(916) 648-0260

Rated 5.0

Tick, tick … tick, tick … tick, tick … tick, tick … tick, tick … boom!

That’s the internal clock pounding in Jon’s head he barrels toward his 30th birthday. “The sound you are hearing is not a technical problem. It is not a musical cue. It is not a joke. It is the sound of one man’s mounting anxiety,” Jon explains in the opening scene of Tick, Tick … Boom!, now showing at New Helvetia Theatre Company.

Thirty may seem a bit young for a midlife crisis, but for this struggling musician, the date represents the point at which he must decide whether to stick with a fleeting dream or opt for a nice life. With mounting anxiety, Jon watches as fellow artists, friends and family settle into comfortable lives with nice jobs, apartments, cars and futures while he stills pounds away, broke, at his keyboard.

Tick, Tick … Boom! is a semi-autographical 15-song musical by playwright/composer Jonathan Larson, written before Rent while he was still trying to break into the music business. While Tick, Tick … Boom! doesn’t have the bite or the depth of Rent, it becomes rich in poignancy and sentimentality considering the playwright’s back story. First performed in 1990 as a one-man rock musical, it was rewritten as a three-actor show after Larson’s tragic death on the eve of Rent’s Broadway debut in 1996. Larson subsequently received three posthumous Tony Awards and a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for drama for Rent, which not only makes his death so much sadder for not being around to enjoy in his success and future endeavors, but also makes Tick, Tick … Boom! such a bittersweet joy to experience.

And in the very capable hands of New Helvetia Theatre Company, Tick, Tick … Boom! sweetly and poignantly captures the struggles, frustrations, enthusiasm and emerging talent of a young composer. This new theater in town, with a mission to bring little-known or forgotten musicals to the stage, follows up their successful production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch last summer with the same winning combination of a superbly talented cast, a strong and inventive directing team, and a first-rate live cabaret band.

The three-person cast and four-person band present the songs that make up Jon’s story—sad songs, funny songs, silly songs and sentimental songs—as a tapestry of what constitutes the life of a promising musical talent. Jon faces career disappointments, a menial job, a restless girlfriend, a successful friend, patient but concerned parents, a distant manager and his own self-doubts—all of which undoubtedly mirrored Larson’s own life.

New Helvetia founder Connor Mickiewicz continues to impress with this show, where he doubles as one of the leads (Jon’s BFF Michael) and co-directs the production with Erin Island. Alongside Mickiewicz are two additional electrifying talents: Tristan Rumery as Jon and Nanci Zoppi as Susan, Jon’s girlfriend. They combine remarkable acting and singing chops. Then to top it all is the cohesive and tight band under the musical direction of Kiera O’Neil and cabaret impresario Graham Sobelman, best known for his work at the weekly songfest Graham-a-rama.

With a second strong, memorable production out of the gate, New Helvetia Theatre Company proves to be an exciting local theater talent with lasting appeal.