Jonathan Larson’s Tick, Tick… BOOM! has landed at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre in a new production that feels surprisingly big. Headlined by TV star turned musical/cabaret artist Hugh Sheridan, this is a great, mainstage sized production of a small show.
Tick, Tick… BOOM! is a story of resilience and the artistic life. Jon (Sheridan) is a musical theatre writer trying to get his rock-musical, Superbia, staged. He has a workshop coming up that he hopes will be its launch pad. Cooincidentally he’s also turning 30, and his early-mid-life-artistic-crisis is hitting hard. Is writing a musical worth the years of poverty? Is it worth sacrificing his relationship with his girlfriend Susan (a flawless Elenoa Rokobaro)? Should he get a real job and finally make a living like his best friend Michael (Finn Alexander)? Or can he hang on with hope that Superbia may be a defining piece of theatre that will bring him success?
Hugh Sheridan can definitely sing. WIth an earthy, folk-rock tone, his vocals are solid within their range, but he’s not a musical theatre performer with the power or flexibility to sell the bigger numbers. His voice faltered on the opening number “30/90” and the final note of “Sunday” setting the night on an uncomfortable edge. Maybe it was just a bum opening night? In any case, I want to get this criticism out of the way because, weirdly, it’s not as big an issue as it seems. The majority of the tunes sit within his vocal comfort zone, and Sheridan really shines on the more comedic numbers like “No More” and “Therapy”. Everything else about his performance is relaxed, charming, and endearing.
The real star of the show however is Elenoa Rokobaro as Susan/Karessa. Rokobaro effortlessly owns the stage with “Come To Your Senses”, getting the biggest applause of the night. The trio of leads is rounded out by Finn Alexander, another seasoned musical theatre performer who doesn’t disappoint. Together they deliver the strong vocals and sharp characterisation required.
This simple musical, posthumously adapted from Larson’s one-man act, is elevated with dramatic but simple staging by Chrisina Smith. Two towering brick walls and a small raised stage keep the action focused without sacrificing scale. Matt Scott’s lighting adds emotion and suitably rock concert style moments.
Those more familiar with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Netflix film version starring Andrew Garfield may feel like some tunes are missing (the stage show doesn’t include a few numbers added for the film), but won’t feel short changed. Plus, hearing the voice of you know who at the end brought an audible gasp from the musical theatre loving audience. Even years after his passing, his shadow looms large.
Director Tyran Park has done an excellent job of narrowing in on the emotion of the script, keeping the comedy energetic and light, and the drama grounded. Combined with Freya List’s choreography and movement work, the cast of five (the leads, plus ensemble members Sheridan Adams and Hamish Johnston) feels much larger. The whole show is well worth your time and money and this production deserves to be seen.
By Chad Armstrong
Tick, Tick… BOOM! plays at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre until April 26th, 2023. Click here for tickets and more information.
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