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tick, tick…BOOM! – Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording

tick, tick…BOOM! – Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording



A Few (too many) words from Jonathan Larson’s Dad . . . From the time he was a little boy, Jonathan was exposed to musical theatre; in albums at home and, on special occasions, actual productions. Sometimes the stories told on the jackets of those giant vinyl discs provided a clear mental picture of what was happening on stage; sometimes they didn’t. We always enjoyed the music, but if we had already seen the show, the songs brought the thrill, the color, and the story vividly back to life. I hope these notes about tick, tick . . . BOOM! will help you enjoy this show just as Jon enjoyed so many in our house. By the late 1980s, Jonathan had completed work on a futuristic musical show titled Superbia. Everyone told him it was good, or better than good, but with rock music it was too “different” for Broadway, and required too large a cast for Off-Broadway. In frustration, he decided to create a small budget, one-man show that he would perform himself. Initially, he called it Boho Days, a “rock monologue” about bohemian life. Then, feeling increasing pressure to succeed as a composer or switch to something else because he’d soon be thirty years old (in 1990), he called it 30/90; and when that milestone had passed, tick, tick . . . BOOM! Between 1989 and 1993, he performed the show briefly at New York’s Second Stage Theatre, the New York Theatre Workshop, and The Village Gate. Along the way, there were major revisions, with various songs added and deleted, and five different scripts. Because he was first of all a playwright, using both words and music to tell a story, he wanted to create a perfect piece of stagecraft. While based on events and emotions from his own life, it was to be a universal story, about individuals feeling the kinds of pressures we all face. For the record (no pun intended), that’s what Jon wanted audiences to share; not “his story,” but “our story.” We all felt he had achieved that goal remarkably well, with terrific music. But by 1993, he had become more and more involved writing another show called Rent, so tick, tick . . . BOOM! was put aside. Although he had taken some dramatic licenses, the show had, and has, a very personal tone for everyone who knew him; we felt that putting it on stage would be almost like publishing excerpts from his diary. Then, in 2000, Victoria Leacock – one of his closest friends and most consistent supporters since their college days – and Robyn Goodman, who had first produced the monologue at The Second Stage, joined forces to convince us that the show was too good to remain hidden. Realizing they were right, we nervously agreed. So those ladies (together with co-producers Lorie Cowen Levy, Dede Harris, and Beth Smith) deserve full credit for bringing tick, tick . . . BOOM! to the stage in its present form. They somehow assembled the team that has made it so memorable and – in the process-demonstrated to me a point Jonathan often talked about: everything in theatre results from collaborative effort. I’m not clear on who first suggested it should be a three-character play instead of a monologue, but I do know that director Scott Schwartz skillfully guided the project from the beginning, delicately balancing the many concerns we voiced to him; that Stephen Oremus is the musical director/arranger/orchestrator who somehow managed to take Jonathan’s one-man-does-it-all words and music and magically transform them into the two and three-part harmonies presented on stage every night – and on this CD, of course. And that David Auburn did the virtually impossible, choosing scenes and songs from Jonathan’s different versions, then arranging them into a single, unified story in Jon’s voice. Finally, together with the producers, they sought out the exceptionally talented actor/singers and band members whom you hear on this CD. I can’t present the show adequately in the few sentences there’s room for on this paper, but I am confident that this CD will give you that great sense of “being there” which we always enjoyed. With some of the same themes as Rent, the show opens on a Saturday night in 1990. Jon is about to turn thirty, Superbia will have its first public performance – a workshop – in a few days, and he’s worried that he may have made a wrong career choice. In 30/90 we meet his girlfriend, Susan, and his best friend, Michael, who leaves the lovers alone so they can share a romantic night – Green Green Dress. The next morning, Jon ponders his choices (Johnny Can’t Decide) until reality intrudes, and he has to go to work at the diner. The all-too-familiar brunch scene is brought to life in Sunday, Jon’s deliberate inversion of a song by his real-life mentor, Stephen Sondheim. Afterwards, Michael takes him to see the fancy apartment he has just bought, and the two have fun contrasting its pleasures (No More) with life in Jonathan’s ancient walk-up flat. Later in the evening, he and Susan have one of their increasingly frequent spats about nothing – and everything – Therapy. As Johnny drives him to the airport the following day in Michael’s gleaming new BMW, Michael voices deep concern about what he may be missing – Real Life. After which, en route to a rehearsal of Superbia, Jon seeks solace from the various pressures he is feeling – Sugar. Returning home to realize he’s on the verge of a major breakup with Susan, Jon wishes he could See Her Smile. At the workshop later in the week, Karessa Johnson, an actress in the workshop (also played by Amy Spanger), brings down the house with an appropriately-titled ballad Come To Your Senses (which really is from Superbia). After Michael reveals that he is HIV-positive, a virtual death sentence in 1990, Jon thinks about their lifetime of friendship; about what led him to choose a career in the theatre, and about whether he should give up his dreams of success as a composer – Why. Finally, as the dreaded thirtieth birthday actually arrives, he ponders the choices we face in life, and thinks about how we translate those decisions into everyday living – Louder Than Words. I hope you enjoy the recording. – Al Larson, August, 2001


Jonathan: Raul Esparza Susan: Amy Spanger Michael: Jerry Dixon Music Director/Keyboard: Stephen Oremus Guitar: Matt Beck Bass: Konrad Adderley Drums: Clayton Craddock