On Friday night, I attended the City Center Encores! performance of Jonathan Larson’s tick, tick…BOOM! at New York City Center.
And it was so nice, I saw it twice! Here’s why…
1. The cast is unbelievable
I love Lin-Manuel Miranda, but I’d never seen him perform live. I was super excited to see him, especially after reading this moving essay on what Jonathan Larson (and both Rent and tick, tick…BOOM!) meant to him. This is literally why I bothered to get tickets at all. (And I’m such a sucker for stories where a wide-eyed youngster attends a transformative performance and winds up playing that role later in their career.)
And Karen Olivo and Leslie Odom Jr. as girlfriend Susan and best friend Michael—OMG! I’d only seen Karen Olivo in random segments where she was promoting either In the Heights or West Side Story (for which she won a Tony Award), and my familiarity with Leslie Odom Jr.’s work didn’t extend beyond Reverend Curtis Scott in Law & Order: SVU. (Boo, Reverend Scott: Leave Detective Benson alone!)
They’re so good: fantastic voices, perfect comic timing, etc. All due respect to Amy Spanger, who played Susan in the original 2001 run, but I didn’t even bother to listen to “Come to Your Senses” after hearing it for the first time on Spotify. Karen Olivo really brought the g.d. house down with her rendition and I will accept nothing less. (Does a cast recording of this revival exist?)
2. The music is so fun
I certainly don’t know nearly enough about music to talk about composers or anything, but the music was very…Jonathan Larson (i.e., rock-opera-y). Considering how I completely wore out my copy of the Rent soundtrack in the 1990s (like most teenage girls), I should know.
Eek, I hope my neighbors are fans, too, since I’ve been nonstop Spotifying the hell out of the tick, tick…BOOM! soundtrack, sung by the incomparable Raúl Esparza, aka ADA Rafael Barba in Law & Order: SVU! God bless Dick Wolf, without whose shows many talented NYC actors would not have enough to eat.
3. The story is so relatable
Okay so I’ve never pursued musical theater (thank GOD, the process seems terrifying) or anything in the performing arts, but hasn’t everybody dreaded the idea of becoming an “adult” and reaching one’s “scary” age (30, in Jon’s case) without achieving some arbitrary definition of success?
Of course, at this age, I’m also seeing a lot of buddies leave the city. It’s freakin’ expensive here…and for what? The morning after I saw the show, I emailed my sister in California, telling her how much I had enjoyed it and how much I wish she could’ve seen it with me. In that moment, I felt really lucky to live in—as Jon pointed out—the center of musical theater in this country.
And then I went to my bathroom and saw a thumb-sized roach on its back underneath my sink. Sadly, my immediate reaction wasn’t disgust or fear, but gratitude that it was dead. (Thanks for keeping me in check, New York.)
4. ’90s nostalgia gets me every time
tick, tick…BOOM! takes place in 1990. And even though Susan only really had two outfits, I was obsessed with both of them.
The first, which you can see in the image above, was an ankle-length, flowy floral dress (with a denim vest, which I knew I was not cool enough to wear). I was obsessed with flowy pants and flowy dresses but stuck to my uniform of jeans and a solid-colored T-shirt. (Seriously, somebody once asked me, “Anny, why do you only ever wear jeans and a solid-colored T-shirt?”)
In “Green Green Dress,” Susan wears a velvet green dress, reminiscent of Angela Chase’s long-sleeved, velvet maroon dress that she wore on several occasions (mother-daughter fashion show, World Happiness Dance) on My So-Called Life. I could only dream of wearing something as awesome as that dress. I once found something similar in a dELiA*s catalog (receiving those in the mail were the highlight of my year) and would stare at the picture for a few minutes every day for months.
5. The audience was rocking out
Don’t you love it when everybody else around you is having so much fun?
My balcony peeps (can’t beat $25 plus tax!) and I were cracking up and shedding tears together. At the Saturday performance, the guy in front of me clearly knew the music since he was mouthing along with the lyrics. (And at one point when Jon played only a few bars of “I Should Tell You” onstage, the audience cheered wildly. Such Rent nerds, all of us!)
There were only five performances total of tick, tick…BOOM!, but when E and I attended on Friday, we ran into two of her friends (separately) and I later realized, thanks to social media, that one of my buddies had been to that performance too.
When I arrived home that night, I promptly bought another ticket for the following day. (I went alone; I’m super cool.) I guess the occasional dead roach is a small price to pay for such easy access to amazing performances.
Cannot wait for Hamilton!