TICK, TICK... BOOM! by Jonathan Larson, directed by Mario D'Alimonte, musical director Wayne Gwillim, with Dean Armstrong, Michael Dufays and Daphne Moens. Presented by Acting Up Stage at the Poor Alex (296 Brunswick). Runs to February 26, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, Sunday 7 pm, matinee Saturday 2 pm. $25-$28, stu/arts workers $20, rush $10. 905-881-6546. Rating: NN Rating: NN
The angst of aging hangs heavily on the shoulders of Jonathan, the central figure in Jonathan Larson 's autobiographical tick, tick... BOOM! A musical-theatre writer who hasn't reached his life's goal, making it on Broadway, Jonathan is about to turn 30 and feels the clock moving inexorably forward.
But the ticking's also a bomb he fears will soon go off, and Jonathan ( Dean Armstrong ) worries about life decisions. Should he move to New England with his dancer girlfriend, Susan ( Daphne Moens )? Sell out and follow his successful, rich best friend, Michael ( Michael Dufays ), into the corporate world? Or stick with a profession whose movers and shakers seem to be ignoring him as he prepares the workshop of a new show?
This pocket musical by Larson (Rent), which draws on several earlier versions of the script, was first produced five years after the writer died unexpectedly in 1996.
But while it promises to let us into Jonathan's anxiety, neither the music nor the script conveys much in the way of feelings either good or bad. There's a superficial quality to the characters and the tunes; they rarely go deep and touch our emotions. How can we care about the tensions between Jonathan and Susan when we're not convinced of the heat of their earlier love? Or Jonathan's concern for Michael when their long-term friendship isn't demonstrated, or even suggested?
Musically, the up-tempo songs work best, especially those with a comic edge. A paean to cheap sugar highs is fun, as is a parody/homage number to Stephen Sondheim, Jonathan's idol, in the form of a send-up of Jonathan's waiter day job. The introspective songs are generally vapid in both music and lyrics, though the number See Her Smile has a rare touch of real emotion.
The actors can't mine much under director Mario D'Alimonte , even though Armstrong radiates lots of anxiety and insecurity. We get little sense of Jonathan's drive to create, but the problem begins with the script. The actors generate little chemistry onstage, an exception being the increasingly angry song Therapy, with its country twang.
I applaud the premiering Acting Up Stage 's intention to mount intimate musical theatre productions and attract new, young audiences. Just wish the opening show were a more substantial calling card.