Let me tell you, it is a weird thing to see 18-year-olds in 2018 perform a play about being on the brink of turning 30 in 1990. This production was great and interesting–and also kind of surreal.
The problem, I think, with doing Tick, Tick…Boom! right now is that it isn’t far enough away, but it also isn’t close enough. It’s not different enough, in time, for young actors to realize how little they know or understand about the ’90s. Doing a play set in 1890? Yes, they definitely know the world was different. But 1990? It’s only 10 years before they were born. But how dramatically the world has changed, especially for the arts community in New York. The AIDS crisis isn’t what it was, to name one major thing.
Also, this Jonathan Larson’s journeyman project. You see hints of Rent, but it’s not as clever or subtle or surprising as Rent. It’s an okay book. The music–some of it is very clever, especially the brunch song. The song about mourning is amazing. But some of it feels energetically flat.
All of that aside, this production was super strong. The singing was on target, the set and costuming economical and reusable in exactly the right ways. The acting was committed, which is 90% of what you need for a successful show. There were a few surprises in it for me, in particular, although I know that the play was originally performed by white people, there are a number of lines and jokes that seem to only work with the multi-ethnic cast they had in this show. In particular, there’s a joke about “movin’ on up to the East Side,” and when it was sung by a black guy, I found myself doubting if this was actually written with a white person in mind (I checked later, it definitely was–but what a misstep!).
I wish this production had had a dramaturg; that dramaturgical lens could have added richness and depth to it–and yet, it was a fun and moving show, nevertheless.