Tick, Tick…Boom!

By Joanna Langfield

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s autobiographical musical is a love letter to the theater kid in all of us.

Larson wrote and performed this piece during his early days in New York, when he, like so many others, was desperately trying to make it. Tick, Tick…Boom! doesn’t just catalogue his journey, but also those of his friends, artists hanging in there, waiting tables, making sacrifices, all as the AIDS epidemic swells around them. Joyous, emotional and sobering, this musical shows some of what Larson later wrote to greater effect, in his iconic Rent. It nails the alluring struggle and, eerily, the foreshadowing of the limits of time. Jonathan, tragically, died right before Rent opened on Broadway. And Miranda used that theme in Hamilton, reminding us as to the urgency of spending the time we have wisely. But this is an early work and, although there are great moments, it’s also a bit inconsistent. And Miranda, who knows how to make a musical magical, brings his innate talent as well as that of others, to buoy this production.

I won’t give away who shows up, but a team of familiar faces, as well as some quintessential New York theater people, make appearances that are just plain glorious. But, even with a fine supporting cast (including Alexandra Shipp, Robin De Jesus, Vanessa Hudgens and super turns from Bradley Whitford and Judith Light), the undeniable star is Andrew Garfield, who plays Larson. I remember when Garfield nabbed the Spider-Man franchise, there was all sorts of talk about what an amazing, serious actor he was. I’ve seen him do some impressive stuff since, but now, I get it. Garfield is great. The camera can’t take its eyes off of him and neither could I.