Tick, tick ... BOOM!

"Tick Tick Boom" redirects here. For the single by The Hives, see Tick Tick Boom (song).
Tick, Tick... Boom!
Music Jonathan Larson
Lyrics Jonathan Larson
Book Jonathan Larson
David Auburn
Basis Autobiographical
Productions 2001 Off-Broadway
2005 London
2009 West End

Tick, Tick... Boom! (styled as tick, tick... BOOM!) is a musical written by American composer Jonathan Larson, who won a Pulitzer and three Tony Awards for his musical Rent. Tick Tick Boom tells the story of an aspiring composer named Jon, who lives in New York City in 1990. Jon is worried he has made the wrong career choice to be part of the performing arts. The story is autobiographical, as stated by Larson's father in the liner notes of the cast recording – Larson had been trying to establish himself in theatre since the early 1980s.

Larson began to perform the piece as a solo work in 1990. After his death in 1996, it was revised and revamped by playwright David Auburn as a three-actor piece and was premiered off-Broadway in 2001. Since then, the show has had a London production, an American national tour and numerous local productions.


Tick, Tick...Boom! was originally produced Off-Off-Broadway in September 1990 at the Second Stage Theatre and New York Theatre Workshop and The Village Gate (November 1991).[1] Larson performed the show as a "rock monologue," a new form of theatre for the time. The performance attracted the attention of a young producer named Jeffrey Seller, who became a fan of Larson's work. In 1995, he saw the New York Theatre Workshop production of Larson's musical Rent and convinced his fellow producers to bring it to Broadway.

After Larson's death in 1996, producer Victoria Leacock asked David Auburn, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Proof, to reconfigure Tick, Tick...Boom!. Auburn restructured the monologue into a three actor musical,[2] with one actor playing Jon, and the other two actors playing Michael and Susan as well as all the other roles in the show. Also, the script and score were streamlined and edited. This revised version of the piece premiered off-Broadway at the Jane Street Theater on May 23, 2001.[3]


Over a persistent ticking sound, Jon introduces himself: “The sound you are hearing is not a technical problem. It is not a musical cue. It is not a joke. It is the sound of one man's mounting anxiety. I... am that man.” Jon is an aspiring composer for musical theatre, who lives in SoHo, New York. He is nearing his 30th birthday and worries about his aging and lack of achievement (“30/90”). Michael, a friend of Jon’s since childhood, gave up acting to pursue a more lucrative career as a research executive. Susan, Jon's girlfriend, is a dancer who teaches ballet to “wealthy and untalented children.”

Susan and Jon discuss the upcoming 30th birthday party that she is throwing for him. She pressures him to play “Happy Birthday to You” to himself on the piano at the party, but he is hesitant because it reminds him of the aging aspect of birthdays. Michael wants to schedule a job interview for Jon with Michael’s firm. Again, Jon is hesitant, but agrees to think it over. Later, on the roof of his apartment building, Jon reveals that he is also nervous about an upcoming workshop of his newest musical, SUPERBIA. Susan comes to join him; he comments on her dress and how beautiful it makes her look (“Green Green Dress”).

The next morning, Jon is awake early. Susan asks him about the possibility of leaving New York. Susan wants to raise a family and doesn’t view that as compatible with Jon’s “starving artist” lifestyle. Jon is torn between following his dream of composing and opting for security and family in a different career. Meanwhile, the other two main characters recap their views on what Jon should do (“Johnny Can’t Decide”). Jon’s reverie, however, is cut short; he needs to report to his day job as a waiter in a SoHo diner (“Sunday”).

After work, Michael picks Jon up in his brand new BMW to show Jon his new apartment. Michael exults at the thought of a life of luxury (“No More”), and pressures Jon further to consider changing his career path. Frustrated, Jon finally agrees to accompany Michael to work the next day and visit a brainstorming session at his firm. Back at home, Jon phones his parents and then his agent. He plans to spend the remainder of the evening composing, but he is interrupted by a call from Susan, who wants to see him. They argue, albeit in a passive and psychological manner that scarcely seems like an argument at all (“Therapy”).

On Monday morning, Jon walks to Michael’s office for his brainstorming session. On the way, Jon thinks back to a workshop in which his work was reviewed by a composer “so legendary his name may not be uttered aloud…” (“St----- S-------”). He also worries about his musical style and its place on Broadway, but has little time to develop this train of thought before he arrives at Michael’s firm. The brainstorming session involves naming a cooking fat substitute through a convoluted “idea-generating” process. Jon sees the futility of the process, and his unwillingness to cooperate gets him removed from the meeting. Later, as Jon drives Michael to the airport for a business trip, they argue about the meeting. Michael tells Jon that the life Susan wants doesn’t sound bad, and that he wishes his job could give him the chance to settle down (“Real Life”).

After dropping Michael off, Jon goes to a rehearsal for SUPERBIA, but not before stopping to get a snack of Twinkies (“Sugar”). At the market, he spies Karessa Johnson, one of his actors for SUPERBIA. She reveals a similar weakness for Twinkies, and this leads to a sudden friendship between the two. After the rehearsal, Susan sees Jon and Karessa walking together and becomes jealous. She informs Jon that she’s gotten a job in Northampton, Massachusetts which may be permanent. Jon and Susan argue about the state of their relationship; in a turnaround from the events leading up to “Therapy,” Jon begs Susan to stay and be with him. Despite this, she leaves for home, and Jon thinks about what may have happened to make her behave this way (“See Her Smile”).

The next morning, Jon arrives early at the theatre for the workshop of SUPERBIA. Although initially the theatre is empty, soon it is filled with very important people: Jon’s family and friends, as well as Broadway producers and artists, including Jon’s idol, St----- S-------. Karessa steals the show with her performance of “Come to Your Senses”. The workshop is a success, and Jon gets many congratulations; but there are no offers to produce SUPERBIA on or off Broadway. Jon is no closer to being a professional composer, and so, in his eyes, the workshop has been a failure.

After the workshop, Jon visits Michael and tells him that he is through with music. For the first time, though, Michael tries to persuade him to stick with it. Michael says that while he enjoys how he makes a lot more money now than he did as a starving artist, he finds the job itself to be emotionally banal and unrewarding. The two argue, and Jon yells at Michael for not understanding fear or insecurity. Michael responds by telling Jon that he is HIV-positive. Shocked at this news, Jon leaves quickly.

Distressed and alone, Jon wanders through Central Park until he finds himself in the abandoned theater inside Belvedere Castle. He finds an old rehearsal piano, and begins to play it while collecting his thoughts. Jon ponders on whether the amount of sacrifice required for his career in music is worth it, and whether those telling him to “have it all, play the game” are right (“Why”). Ultimately, he realizes that he will only be happy as a professional composer, no matter what hardships that may bring.

The next morning is Jon’s thirtieth birthday party (“30/90 Reprise”). He sees Susan, who is getting ready to leave. She gives him his birthday gift: a thousand sheets of blank manuscript paper. They agree to write to each other, and she leaves. Michael gives him a birthday gift of belts (Michael thinks belts are a sign of luxury). The phone rings, and the caller is Stephen Sondheim. Sondheim leaves Jon his contact information so they can meet and discuss SUPERBIA. Jon realizes that he is surrounded by friends and that his talents are finally being recognized. He says, “the tick tick booms are softer now. I can barely hear them, and I think if I play loud enough I can drown them out completely.” Jon sits down at his piano to play “Happy Birthday to You.”[4][5]

Comparison to Company

Tick, Tick...Boom bears some similarity to Company, written by Larson's idol Stephen Sondheim. For example, in Company, Robert 'celebrates' his 35th birthday much in the way Jon celebrates his 30th, with both shows ending with the blowing out of candles and the cast singing "Happy Birthday to You".

Musical numbers

  • "30/90" — Company
  • "Green Green Dress" — Jon, Susan
  • "Johnny Can't Decide" — Company
  • "Sunday" — Company
  • "No More" — Michael, Jon
  • "Therapy" — Jon, Susan
  • "Times Square"
  • "Real Life" — Company
  • "Sugar" — Company
  • "See Her Smile" — Company
  • "Superbia Intro"
  • "Come to Your Senses" — Karessa
  • "Why" — Jon
  • "30/90 Reprise"
  • "Louder Than Words" — Company
  • "Sunday", Jon's song at the diner, is based on the Act I Finale from the Stephen Sondheim musical Sunday in the Park with George; Larson conceived it as a humorous homage to Sondheim, one of his largest influences.[6]
  • Another reference to Sondheim is present in the score of the song, "Why". Not only mentioning West Side Story in the lyrics, the song utilizes the same tritone made famous in the West Side Story song "Maria".
  • On the cast recording there is an additional song cut from the final version of the show, "Boho Days". This track is one of the few recordings of Larson's voice publicly available. It was extracted from a demo tape recorded by Larson during the development of tick, tick... BOOM![7]


  • 2001 Off-Broadway premiere
The revamped musical premiered off-Broadway at the Jane Street Theater on May 23, 2001 and closed on January 6, 2002. Directed by Scott Schwartz, with choreography by Christopher Gatelli, the cast featured Raúl Esparza as Jon, Jerry Dixon as Michael, and Amy Spanger as Susan. Molly Ringwald and Natascia Diaz later replaced Spanger as Susan and Joey McIntyre replaced Esparza as Jon. The production received seven Drama Desk Award nominations, including Outstanding Musical,[8] and won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical; Esparza won an Obie Award for his performance.[3] The original cast recording was released in 2001 by RCA Victor Broadway.[9]

The off-Broadway production was imported to Seoul, South Korea briefly, with McIntyre, Dixon and Diaz making up the cast.

  • 2003 American national tour
A touring production of the show was directed by Schwartz, with Christian Campbell as Jon, Nikki Snelson as Susan and Wilson Cruz as Michael. The tour performed in Dallas, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, East Lansing, Michigan, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Hershey, Pennsylvania, Nashville, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Chicago and Boston.[10]
  • 2005 London premiere
tick, tick... BOOM! opened in London at the Menier Chocolate Factory on May 31, 2005, running until August 28, 2005. Again directed by Scott Schwartz, the cast featured Neil Patrick Harris as Jon – later replaced by Christian Campbell – Tee Jaye as Michael, and Cassidy Janson as Susan.[11]
  • 2005-06 California production
A California production ran at the Rubicon Theatre Company in Ventura, California from November 19, 2005 through December 18, 2005. Scott Schwartz directed, with a cast including Andrew Samonsky as Jon, Wilson Cruz as Michael and Natascia Diaz as Susan. The production moved to the Coronet Theatre, West Hollywood, California, through July 16, 2006.[12]
  • 2005 Canadian premiere
A Toronto production was mounted by Acting Up Stage Theatre Company at the Poor Alex Theatre in 2005. The director was Mario D'Alimonte, with a cast featuring Dean Armstrong as Jon, Michael Dufays as Michael and Daphne Moens as Susan.
  • 2009 London West End premiere
tick, tick... BOOM! had its West End première in a limited engagement at the Duchess Theatre from 13–17 May, forming part of the 2009 Notes From New York season. Directed by Hannah Chissick, the cast comprised Paul Keating as Jon, Julie Atherton as Susan and Leon Lopez as Michael.[13]

Other productions

  • 2003-2004 European premiere
The Hungarian production opened on 23 July 2003 for several performances on the open-air stage of Pécs, Hungary. It was directed by Tamás Balikó, the director of the National Theatre of Pécs, with musical direction by Zoltán Bókai. The cast was Attila Németh as Jon, Lilla Polyák as Susan and István Fillár/Tamás Gregorovics as Michael.

The production moved to the National Theatre of Pécs, where it opened on 4 November 2003 with new cast members: Bernadett Tunyogi as Susan, and Attila Csengeri as Jon. The production closed on 26 February 2004.

  • 2005 Cincinnati, Ohio production
Know Theatre of Cincinnati presented a production in the fall of 2005 at their theatre in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati.
  • 2006 Phoenix, Arizona production
Artists Theatre Project presented a production in Phoenix at Soul Invictus for a six-week run, with two alternating casts: Dusty Goltz as Jon, Kim Jeffries as Susan and Damon J. Bolling as Michael; and Sam Wilkes as Jon, Jerome Lowe as Michael and Carly Vernon as Susan. The run ended with a third cast: Sam Wilkes as Jon, Kim Jeffries as Susan and Damon J. Bolling as Michael.
  • 2007 Danish production
A Danish production played in 2007, starring Mads Æbeløe Nielsen as Jon, Thomas Bay Pedersen as Michael and Christina Elisabeth Mørkøre as Susan, and directed by Jens Frausing. A recording of the Danish production was released in 2007.
  • 2007 Virginia production
The show was produced by MetroStage in Alexandria, Virginia from October through November 2007. It was directed by Matt Gardiner of the nearby Signature Theatre, and starred Stephen Gregory Smith as Jon, Felicia Curry as Susan, and Matt Pearson as Michael.
  • 2008 Mexican production
Starring Marco Anthonio as Jon, Natalia Sosa as Susan and Beto Torres as Michael, this production opened at Teatro Rafael Solana on February 20, 2008.
  • 2008 Canadian production
Ignition Theatre produced the production in May, 2008 at The Matchbox in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. Starring Joel Crichton as Jon, Wilmari Myburgh as Susan, and Curtis Labelle as Michael. The production ran from May 15–24.
  • 2009 Westport production
The production at the Westport Country Playhouse in Westport, Connecticut ran from June 23 through July 18. It was directed by Scott Schwartz and starred Colin Hanlon as Jon, Wilson Cruz as Michael, and Pearl Sun as Susan.
  • 2009 Manila production
A Philippine production ran for three weeks in August 2009 at the Ateneo de Manila University. It was staged by Blue Repertory, the university's college-level musical theater group, under the direction of Bea Garcia.
  • 2009 Albany, New York production
This production ran for one week in August 2009 in Albany, New York. It was staged by the Debuts Theater Company, under the direction of Jason Ford, and starred Matthew Streifert as Jon, Alana Sangiacomo as Susan, and Adrien Gleason as Michael. The production was remounted for four shows in April 2011 by the Spotlight Players in East Greenbush, New York.
  • 2009 Indianapolis production
The Indianapolis production was at the Ben Davis Performing Arts Center and the Indiana Historical Society, directed and produced by Don Drennen, and starring Dane Rogers as Jon, Michael Davis as Michael, and Niki Hurrle-Warner, a founding member of Indyprov, as Susan.[14][15]
  • 2010 San Antonio production
From January 8-February 29, 2010, "Tick, Tick...Boom!" played at the Woodlawn Theatre in San Antonio, Texas. It opened on January 8 with Josh Harris as Jon, James Jackson as Michael, Jenn Harris and Caitlin Woltje as Susan, Lindsey Dartsch and Jenn Harris as Kareesa, Elizabeth Anne Wenzel as Rosa, Amanda Gutierrez and Sara Dunn as Judy.
  • 2010 San Francisco production
Theatre Rhinoceros presented the play at the Eureka Theatre from February 9 through 28, 2010.[16]
  • 2010 German premiere
The German premiere of the musical took place on March 11, 2010 in Kerpen near Cologne. It was directed by Barbara Franck and Marco Maciejewski with musical supervision by Philipp Polzin. Jon was played by Oliver Morschel and Daniel Wichmann, Michael by Sascha Odendall and Joshua Vithayathil, and Susan by Marina Schmitz and Michaela Berg. The songs were performed in English, with scenes done in German.
  • 2010 London Fringe production
The Union Theatre performed Tick, Tick...Boom! in April 2010, featuring Leanne Jones, Ashley Campbell and Adam Rhys Davies. It was directed by Damian Sandys.
  • 2011 Buffalo, New York production
The Subversive Theatre Collective, in partnership with the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, and sponsored by Jesse L. Martin, an original cast member of Rent, presented Tick, Tick...Boom! from May 6 to 22, 2011. The production was collaboratively co-directed by the cast, Daniel Henderson, Vanessa Elder and Connor Graham.
  • 2011 Madrid production
A Spanish production will run at Teatro Lara, Madrid from 14 July 2011 to 22 July 2011 under the direction of Pablo Muñoz-Chápuli and starring Jorge Gonzalo as Jon, David Tortosa as Michael and Laura Castrillón as Susan.
  • 2011 Batavia, New York production
JNS Productions INC Performed at the Harvester Theatre 56 In Batavia New York July 14th, 15th and 16th 2011. Under the direction of Shellene Bailey and Co director Thorin Vallentin, and starring Drew Williams as Jon, Matthew Mayne as Mike, and Amanda Taylor as Susan.
  • 2012 Chicago production
Porchlight Theatre production performed at Stage 773 in Chicago April 28 - June 10, 2012, under the direction of Adam Pelty and musical director Diana Lawrence, and starring Adrian Aguilar as Jon, Bear Bellinger as Mike, and Jenny Guse as Susan.
  • 2012 Argentinian production
Performed on Maipo Kabaret Theatre, under the direction of Nicolás Roberto and the starring play by Andrés Espinel as Mike, Natalia Cesari as Susan and Paul Jeannot as Jon.



External links

  • Internet off-Broadway Database
  • at the Music Theatre International website
  • Curtain Up review, 6/22/01
  • American Theatre Wing.org, April 2005
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