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Tick, Tick Boom explodes with musical energy

Broadway legends explode with life in Tick, Tick…Boom!, the new musical from Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame. Miranda, already a legend himself at age 41, pays tribute to one of his inspirations, the playwright Jonathan Larson, who reached mythic proportions by tragically dying before seeing his play Rent open on Broadway and win both the Tony and Pulitzer Prize. No spoiler alert here, Tick, Tick Boom! lets audiences in on the tragedy right away before turning the story over to Larson’s own recounting of creating a stage musical.

Based on what Larson called a “musical monologue” he performed before Rent opened, Tick, Tick Boom! initially ran in 1993 as a small-scale show three years before Rent opened and transformed the Broadway musical by putting rock songs into a story featuring both high culture inspiration from the opera La Boehme and headline dominating issues like AIDS. This in turn encouraged Miranda’s career, and he celebrates his inspirational source by mounting a high-end, cinematic interpretation of Larson’s lesser-known work.

With an ear for music and eye for visuals, Miranda succeeds in preserving the source material’s stage roots while pushing forward into the energy and movement required by cinema. In Miranda’s hands, this goes beyond the simplistic idea of merely switching action into real locations. Cutting between scenes on a simply lit stage to indoor and outdoor spaces, he lets characters stretch out with energetic dance steps and costume changes impossible to imitate in the confines of a Broadway theater.

One highlight comes with a tribute to another Broadway master, Steven Sondheim, whose classics include Sunday in the Park with George. Simply called “Sunday,” the song brings cameos from such musical legends as Chita Rivera, Bernadette Peters, Bebe Neuwirth plus Miranda and a couple of his Hamilton cohorts. Taking the center spotlight, Andrew Garfield shows musical chops he never revealed as one of the many screen Spiderman guys and gives a rounded performance perfectly suited to Larson’s stage persona. With action focusing on the creative process more than strict biography or fantasy tales, Tick, Tick…Boom! delivers a fun romp for fans of Broadway and its musical tradition. Designed for release in cinemas, the movie screens on Netflix.

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