Since International Artist’s Day is annually celebrated on October 25, 9 Works Theatrical’s latest production on Jonathan Larson’s chamber musical, originally created as a solo-piece or a rock monologue, which had two titles—‘30/90’ and ‘Boho Days’ prior to having its final title as—‘Tick, Tick… Boom’ is both ‘risky’ and ‘timely’ to mount. However, anchoring on the late author’s intended response to his feelings of rejection which was caused by his disappointment of his ‘Superbia’, an original futuristic rock retelling of George Orwell’s book ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’—this show is very much relevant at this day and age.
The assemblage of three equally talented actors to be part of this show that opened on Saturday, October 1, is an ingenious move. Having critically-acclaimed performer of ‘4000 Miles’ and ‘This is Our Youth’—Jef Flores as Jon, as the aspiring composer who lives in New York in 1990 and is becoming uneasy on the choices he made as a struggling artist; with two ‘Miss Saigon’ alumni—Tanya Manalang and Ariel Reonal as Susan and Michael, respectively.
‘Why’ Jon spends His Life that Way?
Like Mark Twain once said: “The two most important days in your life are the days you are born and the day you find out why.”
In a particular scene and song from the said musical, titled ‘Why’—the author was able to paint how he and Michael pursued their passion, their dream of making a name or a mark in the theater world.
Any artist who is in the crossroads of choosing to find any ‘rhyme or reason’ for his life’s decisions could easily resonate with this musical especially when the line is sang—‘I make a vow, right here and now. I’m gonna spend my time this way. I’m gonna spend my time this way.’ Larson had proven that he had won his own ‘battle’ even if he failed to see when he unexpectedly died the morning of his rock musical’s (Rent) preview performance in Off-Broadway. He suffered an aortic dissection, which was believed to have been caused by undiagnosed Marfan syndrome, in the early morning on January 25, 1996.
Holding and persistently pursuing his passion is a clear picture of how he perceived the artists’ commitment to their chosen crafts and is evident when his work on ‘Rent’ was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Original Score; the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music, and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lyrics; the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical; the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical in the Off-Broadway category; and three Obie Awards for Outstanding Book, Outstanding Lyrics and Outstanding Music.
Flores is one artist who opted to showcase what he has to offer to theater fans. Apart from being a promising actor, he has great potentials as a composer. His being endowed with irresistible good looks is already a sure ticket to succeed not just in the local theater scene, but to have the chance to crossover to mainstream entertainment circuit just like JC Santos of Dulaang UP, who is now making abuzz in one of the country’s top-rating romantic-drama series via ‘Till I Met You’.
One Simple but Ecstatic Production to Boast About.
To some who have seen and didn’t even understand why mount this show that only have three actors as opposed to a huge production with more than 10 cast members and pitting against other more likable shows that of Resorts World Manila’s (RWM) ‘Annie’ and Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group’s (ATEG) ‘Jersey Boys’—‘Tick, Tick… Boom’ is surprisingly a must-see musical because it is one show that composed of ecstatic performers and creative team.
Performing onstage are equally world-class thespians—Manalang and Reonal. One cannot set aside the adrenaline these two have shown as they take turn in portraying varied characters in the show—Manalang as Susan, Karessa, Rosa (Agent), Mom, Waiter, Customer, Secretary, and Judy; while Ariel as Michael, Jon’s Dad, Waiter, Customer, Indian, Temp (office clerk), M.R. Guy, and Convenience store-cashier guy. The flexibility of these two London-trained actors is not to be set aside. Both delivered well what were required of them as specifically choreographed by another alumna of ‘Miss Saigon’—Arnold Trinidad.
Tanya and Ariel are just the right kind of mix to provide great support for Jef. Viewers are treated to two powerful vocals that boast of how they have honed such skills when they were still in West End’s ‘Miss Saigon’. Manalang had her own spotlight when she took on the character of Karessa via the song ‘Come to Your Senses’.
One of the show’s highlight is the ‘Sunday’ song sung by the three actors (as a tribute to Sondheim’s musical titled ‘Sunday in a Park with George’) and will remind how for about 10 years, Larson worked as a waiter at the Moondance Diner during weekends, while on the side, he worked on composing and writing musicals during weekdays. The voices of Flores, Manalang and Reonal blended well in that song.
Mio Infante’s spiral centerpiece metaphorically and literally represented not just the ‘ticking-of-the-clock’ of Jon’s life but so as of Susan’s and Michael’s. Robbie Guevara’s direction is more than effective as he stressed the clock-like movements for his actors; representing it how their lives are numbered. But most of all, Flores is able to sustain the same level of energy as he never got any chance to leave the stage in the duration of the show.
Daniel Bartolome‘s musical direction is impeccably great and the costumes and styling provided by Mickey Hirai really fit the setting of the story.
Yes, the show may be viewed as a low-key production but 9 Works Theatrical is never known to short-change its audience’s satisfaction. That is something that other reviewers may have missed out. It clearly shows that reviewers nowadays are just so-called #memas (may masabi lang). They really didn’t understand the show to begin with. The three-actor show proved to be a real showstopper.
Disguising as a ‘period’ piece with a ‘lasting’ appeal.
Theater artists onstage and offstage involved in this latest production of ‘Tick, Tick… Boom’ here in Manila, do mirror Nelson Mandela’s thoughts: “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
Even if the play is set in the 90s, its message is universal and still transcends time and place. It speaks to all artists since Larson is keen enough to retain heart-grabbing feeling in his story disguised as a ‘period’ piece, but has a ‘lasting’ appeal even toward ‘millennials’ these days.
Artists can definitely see themselves in the three actors, who are trying to gain a foothold for themselves in the city that never sleeps. In Jon’s edge-of-SoHo neighborhood, the over-populated Manila setting is reminiscent of the so-called ‘starving’ artists, but slowly finding ways to have their respective breakthroughs.
The names and identities of Larson’s characters in most of his stories, particularly in this version with David Auburn of ‘Proof’ from just a solo-piece to a three-actor musical—are direct derivatives of the people he has encountered in his lifetime. Susan and Michael are two fictitious characters, but strongly remind the individuals that Larson holds dear in his heart and audiences will definitely grasp with as well.
But Larson’s notable musical influences such as his favorite rock musicians namely Elton John, The Beatles, The Doors, The Who, and Billy Joel are ‘somehow’ distinctly heard in his brand of music.
After 14 years, this musical, which was first staged in 2002 returned to Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza.
Flores joins the ranks of theater luminaries such as Raul Esparza, Neil Patrick Harris, and Lin Manuel Miranda who played Jon (apart from Jett Pangan of the rock band—‘The Dawn’ who once played it in the production of Atlantis of the same title). Bituin Escalante tackled Susan while Michael de Mesa as Michael.
‘Tick, Tick… Boom’ will run until the 23rd of this month. For tickets, log on to TickeWorld or contact (632) 891-9999.