Saturday, May 5, 2012
tick,tick...BOOM! at Porchlight Theater
In this particular moment, we are here alive and feeling and let us make the most of this moment, for we do not know what the future holds. Those words are not uttered by any character in Jonathan Larson's “tick, tick...BOOM!” that opened at Stage 773 last night and concludes Porchlight Music Theatre 2011 – 2012 season but it is the obvious theme that is present though out the show and in his other piece the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning rock musical RENT. It's certainly the theme of Jonathan Larson's short but well documented life which serves as the the basis for the one man show that was re-shaped by Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright David Auburn and presented off-Broadway at the Jane Street Theater in 2001.
Tick, Tick....BOOM! Tells the story of Jon an aspiring composer, who lives in New York City in 1990 and close to is 30th birthday is frustrated at where his career in musical theater is and more importantly where is life is. Jon is torn worried that he hasn't contributed anything of note while his best friend Michael has given up his passion for acting for a successful career in Marketing and his girlfriend Susan wants to leave the stress of the city and settle down for a simpler future.
Jonathan Larson writes passionate anthemic music that can leave you at the moment exhilarated and emotionally devastated such as he is has with Johnny Can't Decide, Real Life, See Her Smile, Come to Your Senses, Why, and Louder Than Words. All songs that rise above the story and can affect the listener on a deeply personal level the only problem is that they like is general theme are all very much of the moment and not something that are easily relateable or memorable to everyone.
Which is not to say that there is not an audience for these songs or that this is not memorably powerful music in story that everyone who is of a certain younger lost generation can relate to. It is and it is stuff that if you are inclined to see this point of view can haunt you and stay with you for quite a while. However for the other half of the audience who is probably more inclined to be on the side of his best friend Michael might leave unmoved and left out, the ones who realize how important today is but still can't ignore the incoming future and if nothing us make sure they are prepared for it. Those who have a harder time just letting go and living life for today without fear or consequence for the future would have a completely realistic yet different viewpoint on the show and might not succumb to the raw emotion this music much like rock music provides.
However all of this is built into the piece itself and to a larger degree Jonathan Larson's work in general, it is in no reflection attributed to Porchlight's stellar production directed and choreographed by Adam Pelty who directs his small cast to convey all the emotional confusion with impending adulthood while never choreographing a step that doesn't look or feel unnatural.
In in the exhausting leading role Adrian Aguilar projects so much honesty and isolation not too mention while belting the vocally difficult role like its nothing. At the beginning I was worried that the band was a little excited and would drown him out but by the finale “Why” he soared at the right moments and had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. As his friend Michael Bear Bellinger displayed some lovely towns in the intensely dramatic “Real Life” is able to show that other side of the piece. The friend who has given up on fantasies and wants to prepare for the reality of the future in order to forget about the harsher realities of today. As his girlfriend Susan and the only female in the piece Jenny Guse reminding me of another Chicago favorite Roberta Duchak (long absent from the Chicago stages but currently music directing Writers Theater's upcoming production of “A Little Night Music”) doesn't sacrifice the realistic needs of the character for wanting something different in life even at the expense of what the leading man wants. She sells her two solo's Green Dress and “Come to Your Senses,” which as a personal note this reviewer wishes would have been included as a character song instead of song within the show as to maximize the full potential of it being an emotional knockout piece.
Jonathan Larson wanted to write rock music for the theater and without a doubt he has succeeded. He has written music that speaks to a particular generation, a particular type of person, and a particular time in someone's life when that person can forget regret and believe that there is no day but today however with that said just like any really good rock music out there his music depending on their perspectives can divide an audience just as much as it can bring them together.
Porchlight Music Theatre presents Jonathan Larson's tick, tick....BOOM!, directed by Adam Pelty with music direction by Diana Lawrence, at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., April 28 – June 10. The performance schedule is Fridays at 7:30 pm., Saturdays at 8 pm. And Sundays at 2 pm. There is an additional Friday June 1 performance at 10 pm. Single tickets are $38 with group and student discounts available. All tickets are available at stage773.com, porchlightmusictheatre.org or by phone 773.327.5252.