Engrossing and innovative musical theatre
By Sally McKenzie
Tick Tick Boom is a cleverly-written one act musical which beautifully illustrates the struggles of the composer Jonathon Larson (who also composed Rent) to ‘make his break’ in the world of musical theatre. In this new production presented by Pursued By Bear, I was captivated from beginning to end. I doubt you will find a better portrayal of this autobiographical piece by Larson.
Upon entrance to ‘The Loft’ performance space at Chapel Off Chapel, we are immediately immersed in the ‘chaos’ of Larson’s musical mind as we walk on a floor covered in pages of sheet music, and are surrounded by a clutter of suitcases and neglected musical instruments randomly stacked against walls.
In the middle of this there is a floor-boarded stage, slightly raised with a piano as the centre piece. Three wooden chairs are the only other set pieces on this stark performance space. A dozen hanging exposed light bulbs also frame the space, helping to bring a distinct realism to the set.
The role of Jonathon Larson is played by Luigi Lucente. He is simply brilliant. The audience immediately empathizes with the heightened anxiety of his character and – through the passing of time (which is likened to the strict timing of the metronome) – are captivated with his journey as an artist. Lucente is compelling as he delivers his soliloquies to the audience. Through superb timing and natural alliance with the character, he is able to bring out the comedy in an otherwise ‘serious’ plot. Moreover, Lucente is perfectly cast as he also is an impressive musician/pianist and rock vocalist. His playing of the piano is interwoven superbly into the music of the show. His performance of ‘Why’ was particularly moving, and the ‘out of tune’ piano was a perfect vessel for his emotions.
Angela Scundi gives a solid performance of the role of Jon’s girlfriend Susan, and effectively doubles as other characters throughout the show. Her rendition of ‘Come To Your Senses’ was very well-received by the audience. Quin Kelly depicted the more conservative character of Michael, which was an apt juxtaposition to the spirited nature of ‘Jon’. Although his voice didn’t quite seem suited to the more contemporary style of the show, but he brought a lovely energy to the ensemble-style cast. Mitch Roberts and Rebecca Heatherington provided extra vocal harmonies for songs and portrayed their cameo roles with conviction. Their presence in the Sondheim parody ‘Sunday’ was particularly engaging.
Paul Watson’s direction is stunning and completely fitting for the venue. The multiple uses of the piano as a set piece and the ‘domestic’ lighting doubling as the perfect tools to create the needed intimacy of such a personal story are just two examples of his stylish creative choices. His ability to convey the different tensions in the space with the positioning of actors alone is impressive.
The musical direction by Jess Barlow is well-executed. Vocal harmonies are tight and the band is well-balanced with the vocalists. There was the occasional imbalance of vocal harmonies (the men sometimes overpowering the women), but this did not deter from the enjoyment of such a fabulous score.
Tick Tick Boom is playing in The Loft at Chapel Off Chapel until May 2nd. Tickets can be booked online at http://chapeloffchapel.com.au/ticket-sales/