In 1990, before Jonathan Larson created the smash Broadway musical Rent, he was a struggling slacker working at a diner. The trials and tribulations of his life fed into the rock monologue Tick, Tick…Boom! A full-cast musical adaptation makes its Milwaukee-area premiere in a production being staged by Soulstice Theatre.
Jordan Gwiazdowski renders a compelling portrait of Larson as he struggles with the question of whether to sell out and become a corporate cog or continue to strive for success in more artistic endeavors. A talented cast fuses itself around Gwiazdowski’s central performance under the admirable direction of Jillian Smith. The interaction between peripheral characters and supporting action provides depth of environment and colorful atmosphere. Whether it’s a heavily bearded Josh Perkins filling a variety of interesting roles or Amber Smith sparkling with comic personality as Larson’s diva talent agent, the many supporting characters add complexity to the show.
The music at the heart of the production resonates with the same kind of energy as Rent. It’s arguably a better work, as Rent’s overly ambitious adaptation of La bohème robs the piece of the kind of free-form narration that feels more at home in this ’90s slacker milieu.
Soulstice Theatre’s production of Tick, Tick...Boom! runs through Feb. 11 at the Keith Tamsett Theatre, 3770 S. Pennsylvania Ave. For ticket reservations, call 414-481-2800.