Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

Tick..tick…boom!
Photo Maria Vartanova

I was very intrigued to attend the Orpheus production of Tick Tick Boom. It would be my first time seeing a production in Centrepointe’s more intimate studio theatre. The play is an autobiographical tale of Jonathan Larson’s early years as a struggling artist attempting to write the great American musical while toiling as a waiter and watching his friends prosper in more conventional professions. He would succeed of course, in writing the monstrously popular Rent, but tragically dying a sudden death of aortic dissection caused by Marfan syndrome before he ever got to see a single performance. The spectacular 12 year run on Broadway, was awarded a plethora of awards including the Pulitzer Prize for Larson, sadly posthumously. 

The performances as directed by Gordon Guest with musical direction by Wendy Berkelaar and choreography by Debbie Guilbeault are all stellar.

 Andy Allen-McCarthy plays Jon naturally, passionately, soulfully and with great humour. You believe every moment of his struggle to find his creative soul and his place as both an artist and a human being while the clock ticks in his head waiting for the boom of reality: a real job that will remove him from his destiny.

 Kenny Hayes as Jon’s best friend Michael is terrific. He walks the fine line of trying to be supportive to his friend’s dreams and trying to save him from a life of poverty. His body language is that of corporate America but underneath that, Michael is an actor who has given up much so that he can make it in the world.

 Andréa Black who was in Orpheus’ Rent clearly relishes being in this production. As Jon’s girlfriend Susan she is seductive, frustrated and supportive but always sympathetic. In one of many highlight’s of the night I found myself belly laughing out loud at the musical telephone argument Jon and Susan have shortly before she decides to leave him.

Blair Laugher’s set makes full use of the theatre space, from the squalid little New York apartment at center stage to the matching balconies stage left and right. An upstage screen ads some ambiance with projected photos of the New York area. The scenes pop back and forth into focus with the help of Barry Sims’ lighting design.

 The star of the night is the play itself and it is great to see Orpheus in this unusually intimate production. Although Larson will always be remembered for Rent, this is just as important a part of his legacy, shining a light on his tremendous gift.

 My problem, a great deal of the time with musicals is that they are pieces of music that connect a shallowly developed plot line. It may seem strange to say that a play that originally was intended to be a one man show with a small band is probably the most complete and heartfelt musical story that will grace an Ottawa stage this year, but it probably will be. The play is a masterpiece of storytelling, spectacularly performed and a musical delight. My theatre partner and I did have one large complaint. Why did they bring the house lights up so fast and not let us applaud them for one more bow?

 Book, Music and Lyrics by Jonathan Larson
Script Consultant, David Auburn
Vocal Arrangements and Orchestrations by Stephen Oremus

Reviewed by Jim Murchison.  Photo Maria Vartanova

 Gord Guest

Artistic Director

Wendy Berkelaar

Musical Director

Debbie Guilbeault

Choreographer

CAST

Jon………………..Andy Allen-McCarthy

Mike…………….Kenny Hayes

Susan…………..Andréa Black

Executive Producer……………………………………………………….Steve Jones

Producer………………………………………………………………….Linda Webster

Production Assistant……………………………………………….Donna St-Jean

Stage Manager……………………………………………………………Carrie Milkslikely will be the

Set Designer………………………………………………………………Blair Laugher

Costume Designer/Costume Production Manager……….Bebe Brunjes

Wardrobe Supervisor…………………………………………………..Sarah Down

Lighting Designer………………………………………………………….Barry Sims

Sound Designer……………………………………………………………….Mark Tye

Makeup & Hair Designer……………………………………………..Kim Shields

Rehearsal Accompanist……………………………………….Wendy Berkelaar

Audition Accompanist…………………………………………Steve Pankiewicz

Social Convenor/Orpheus House………………………………..Bryan Jesmer

Centrepointe Food Coordinator………………………………..Jean Meldrum