Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Legacy of Jonathan Larson


“Tick Tick Boom!” Rings True

Ah, to be young, gifted and insecure!
That describes playwright/composer Jonathan Larson, creator of “Tick Tick Boom!,” onstage through June 9 at the Mizner Park Studio Theatre.
“Boom” is the second effort by the young, gifted Outre Theatre Company, and it is a much more satisfying effort than their inaugural “The Wild Party.”
For one thing Boom had a previous production with two of the same principals: Mike Westrich as Larson’s alter ego Jonny and Sabrina Lynn Gore as his aspiring dancer girlfriend Susan. The setting is New York City just a week before Jonny’s 30th birthday. Adding to the pressure is a workshop production of Jonny’s ambitious musical “Superbia.” Jonny has word that potential backers will be at the show, and perhaps even his artistic idol, Stephen Sondheim.
Adding to the pressure and Jonny's general malaise is the fact Susan wants to give up her show business dreams and move to some place peaceful, say Cape Cod, and settle down.
Jonny’s best friend Michael (Jerel Brown) has already bailed and taken a lucrative job at an advertising firm. Michael gently nudges Jonny that he could be using his creative energy in a more practical and productive way by selling stuff for others.
Michael Westrich, who was previously seen in Slow Burn Theatre’s terrific “Avenue Q,” is a compact, nervously energetic guy who embodies the love/hate dynamic of a searching, desperately creative soul. Westrich has a powerful, wide-ranging belt voice ideally suited to Larson’s eclectic pop-oriented songs.
Sabrina Gore is also a very strong singer, though seeing her as a dance professional is a bit of a stretch. Gore embodies the power of a woman who feels her time is running out, and is willing to make the most of herself with or without the man she loves.
Jerel Brown is a new and welcome addition to the ménage a trios as Michael, a gay man and successful advertising executive whose time is also running out. The very tall and black singer/actor contrasts physically and comically with his diminutive, pale and harried co-star.
If you have seen “Rent” you will recognize the pop-operatic style of the songs, with plot-advancing titles such as “30/90,” “Green, Green Dress,” “Johnny Can’t Decide,” and the droll Sondheim tribute/parody “Sunday.” The tunes are played by an onstage quartet led by musical director Kristen Long at the keyboards. The musicians, including drummer Mark Annio, guitarist Danny butler and bassist David Carrey at one point join in on the action. They are very precise. One can only wish they get more “off book” to be more fully engaged.
Director Skye Whitcomb stages the show efficiently in one act without intermission for an attention-deficit audience, Jonathan Larson went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for his rock opera “Rent.” He died at the young, tragic age of 35 on the first night of previews, never realizing his masterpiece would be so appreciated. For this reason “Tick Tick Boom” rings oh so true.
Tickets are $20-$30. Call 954-300-2149 or go to