Tick. Tick... Boom
Riverhead Theatre, Louth
8 - 11 November 2023
Some people may say, that Tick, Tick... Boom is really only well known because of the success of Jonathan Larson's other, better known musical, RENT. That is really unfair. TTB stands as a strong, modern, musical with powerful rock music and an appealing story. What is more, it is an absolute tour de force for the central performer as Jon. Why? Because TTB is a semi-autobiographical musical by a young musical genius who died too soon to ever see the success of RENT on the world stage. TTB reminds us that life is a struggle, success is not a given and nobody knows what lies around the corner in life, waiting to derail us. We need to seize every moment and celebrate life and what we enjoy.
Jamie Harris, directing, brings an effervescent and muscular production to the stage at Louth and along with Assistant Director Gary Starkie and Musical Director Matthew Jeffery achieves something very rare - a show that, I believe, would genuinely not seem out of place on a London stage as a professional production. The combination of seemingly simple staging with few gimmicks, combined with flawless musical accompaniment lay the foundations for the cast of three to bring their "A-Game" to the stage and to really present a powerhouse performance that will leave audiences desperate for more.
Jon, is twenty-nine years old, soon to be thirty, and is working menial jobs in New York City in order to pay his bills on the apartment he shares with best friend Michael. His real passion however, is writing a new musical that he hopes will take the world of musical theatre by storm and redefine what a musical is for the new generation of theatre makers in the way that Hair had done in the 1960s. His new work, entitled Superbia, has been the focus of Jon's efforts and attention for five years and is about to go up as a live workshop, to which his agent has invited some important people including Jon's idol the late great Stephen Sondheim. His anxiety levels and frustration are going through the roof as he plods on with the work whilst those around him find new avenues of life to explore. His best friend Michael has become an advertising executive and his girlfriend Susan dreams of a life away from New York to start afresh. Michael remains resolutely single-minded in his quest for success and that is the key to the drama.
The cast of three do a remarkable job of populating the stage with relatable characters, some super realistic, others more broad caricatures, but all contributing to the greater whole.
Scott Royle plays Jon, the writer driven by his dreams and desperate for his place in theatre history. It is something of a homecoming for Royle whose early career involved treading the boards with Louth Playgoers before going on to become a professional performer with a career that has seen him travel and perform internationally. Based on this performance, it is not difficult to see why he has been successful. He brings an incredible dark, brooding intensity to this supremely wordy role. He is more than credible as Jon and his American accent never drops for a single beat. Understandably, given the autobiographical nature of this show, Jon is the central character and rarely leaves stage, singing almost every song as a solo, duet or ensemble. He gives a remarkable performance here and I would happily watch him do it all again later this week. Indeed, I am seeking the opportunity to do so if I can. You won't see a better performance at the Riverhead Theatre this year I am sure of it.
His love interest, Susan, is played by the exceptionally talented Georgia Scott from Cleethorpes. Georgia is a widely recognised performer having performed locally with Blaze, Class Act and Cine Show. I take my hat off to her as since last week, she has appeared in three different productions with three different companies, in a space of four days. There was a time when I would have had the energy to attempt such a feat but I am not sure that I would have been as successful at remembering the many and varied roles, lines and songs as she is. She brings a fresh and believable personality to Susan and we realise that though she in Jon bicker, they are in love, but sometimes that love is not enough to sustain a relationship, especially if you are the one doing all the work as Susan seems to be doing here. Far from despising Susan for leaving Jon, the audience will understand why she is frustrated by his single-mindedness. Scott has a warm singing voice and delivers an absolutely spin-tingling rendition of Come To Your Senses as Karessa, one of the stars of the musical workshop. It is a real showstopper.
The third performer is also new to Louth Playgoers, and also comes via Blaze and Class Act. Harry Giles as Michael is versatile performer who was reminiscent of Neil Patrick Harris all suited and booted for the show. It is a difficult role to play as, although Michael is a seemingly successful young man who has the world at his feet, but there behind the façade, Michael is a complex character with a latent tragedy that prevents him from fully enjoying life and Giles plays that aspect superbly, hinting at but never overplaying the tragedy. Michael and Jon have been best friends since their early teens, despite Michael having professed to Jon that he was gay, nothing has come between them and their friendship but now Michael is moving up in the world and his success has brought him a brand new apartment with all mod cons. Giles' performance in the song No More is really rather impressive and you believe that despite the actor's youth in real life, he could be a thirty-year-old advertising executive enjoying the spoils his job has brought him. He also transforms marvellously into Jon's father with the aid of a few costume props.
This cast is incredibly strong in this production of Tick Tick Boom, but a word really must go to Musical Director Matthew Jeffery. He has drilled the performers brilliantly, their vocals are absolutely on point and their harmonies are really quite sublime. He also leads the band effortlessly and produces the solid, driving backing necessary for this show. Huge congratulations to all of the backstage team too in creating a well-constructed and efficient set designed to make everything look dream-like and effortless. The production reminds us of teh heights that can be achieved in amateur theatre if you set your sights high enough. I look forward to Jamie Harris' next production but after this and Tell Me on a Sunday, he is setting the bar very high for himself!
Tickets for Tick. Tick... Boom are on sale from the box office at the Riverhead Theatre or online. If you are a lover of contemporary musical theatre, you would be crazy to miss out on this wonderful production.
Andy Evans 07 November 2023