As Lin-Manuel Miranda’s screen adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s Off-Broadway musical-about-writing-a-musical begins, anxiety-riddled Jon (Andrew Garfield) prepares to celebrate his 30th birthday in his cramped fifth-floor walk-up in Lower Manhattan with his dancer girlfriend Susan (Alexandra Shipp), singing “This is the Life!”
Perpetually broke while trying to stage a workshop of his sci-fi Superbia, self-absorbed Jonathan is a struggling composer/playwright who questions whether he should give up show business and give in to writing Madison Avenue advertising jingles, like his lifelong friend Michael (Robin De Jesus).
Broadway aficionados: there’s a star-studded “Sunday Brunch,” set in SoHo’s Moondance Diner with Broadway legends like Bernadette Peters, Joel Grey, Bebe Neuwirth, Brian Stokes Mitchell and more.
The title refers to the clock Jonathan felt was continually ticking on his life/career; he died suddenly of an aortic aneurysm in 1996 at age 35, shortly before the Off-Broadway opening of his hit musical Rent, loosely based on Puccini’s 1896 opera La Boheme.
Larson originally wrote Tick, Tick…Boom! as Boho Days, a solo, autobiographical show. In 2001, playwright David Auburn staged it as a three-person production, which intrigued Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights, Hamilton), inspiring him to play Jon in a 2014 stage revival.
“Here’s this posthumous musical from the guy who made me want to write musicals in the first place,” Miranda told the New York Times, explaining why he chose it as his feature directorial debut.
Explaining how he put it together with screenwriter Stephen Levenson, Miranda told Entertainment Weekly: “It was like we were putting together an original musical with Jonathan Larson’s songs,”
Despite having no singing experience, gangly Andrew Garfield locks into Larson with savage zeal. Best known as Spider-Man, he not only needed a vocal coach but also a piano teacher, so the camera could pan from his fingers to his face.
As Jon’s idol Stephen Sondheim, Bradley Whitford is subtly sensational, while Judith Light scores as Jon’s agent.
On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, Tick, Tick…Boom! Is an irresistible 8 – in theaters and streaming on Netflix, starting Friday, Nov. 19th.