Porchlight creates memorable production from generous song compilation
|Porchlight Music Theatre presents|
Review by Katy Walsh
30! It’s a big one. It’s ten years out from being a teenager. And there is a certain expectation that by the age of 30, career, marriage, finances should be established or stabilized or at least a focus. That’s why, when I turned 30, I freaked out and moved from Indiana to Chicago without a job.
Porchlight Music Theatre presents tick, tick…BOOM! Jon is a composer. And his roommate is an actor. His girlfriend is a dancer. Ideally, this is how Jon sees it. Technically, he’s a waiter. His roommate is now a successful businessman. And his girlfriend is considering a teaching job… in the suburbs. Jon is preparing to workshop his new play “Superbia.” This is it. This is the moment to define his career. Jon is putting extra pressure on “Superbia” to be his break-out hit because the clock is ticking. tick, tick…BOOM! is the real life struggle of a man to hit it big before he turns 30.
Playwright and composer Jonathan Larson wrote this story about his real life struggles to introduce rock and roll as a musical genre. Knowing the story is true makes the play a little more intriguing. Without that charming nugget, the storyline and back to back musical numbers feel more like a brunch server’s overzealous compilation. It’s forced, and could have used some hold-the-pickle-hold-the-lettuce streamlining. The bounty of songs gets blurred together. There isn’t a tune that gets stuck in your head and makes you want to download the soundtrack. That said, Porchlight’s production is memorable.
Under the direction and choreography of Adam Pelty, the three person cast is in constant movement. Pelty aggressively stages it up and down a circular staircase. And the trio climb and dance and jump with seemingly effortless flourish. At the heart of the story, Adrian Aguilar (Jon) is high energy athleticism. Aguilar croons and broods with soulful endearment. And he sure moves like a guy that didn’t work a double. A magnetic Aguilar captivates with 95 minutes of non-stop dream chasing. Bear Bellinger (Michael) is a supporting character. Literally as the roommate, Bellinger roots for Jon to not give up. Their chemistry is a sweet bromance. Bellinger also delivers a hilarious cameo as Jon’s gravelly-spoken agent. Bringing the female allure, Jenny Guse (Susan) is a talented leading lady. Her solo “Come to Your Senses” is shiver-inducing. With Diana Lawrence directing the music, tick, tick…BOOM! is a peppy, spirited musical. It definitely whets your appetite as a prequel for Rent.
There is an element of spookiness in this autobiographical tale by Jonathan Larson. The Award-winning composer and playwright did eventually hit it big in his Broadway blockbuster Rent. But the clock had stopped before his success was actualized. On the night of the final dress rehearsal of Rent, Larson died of an aortic dissection at the age of 35. tick, tick…BOOM! is a strong wake-up call to get up, get out and make your dreams come true…now!
tick, tick…BOOM! continues through June 10th at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map), with performances Fridays at 7:30pm, Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 2pm. Tickets are $38, and are available by phone (773-327-5252) or online at PrintTixUSA.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at PorchlightMusicTheatre.org. (Running time: 95 minutes, no intermission)
All photos by Jeremy Rill
behind the scenes
Adam Pelty (director); Diana Lawrence (music director); Stephen Oremus (vocal arrangements, orchestrations); David Auburn (script consultant); Ann Davis (set); Joseph Fosco (sound); Greg Hofmann (lighting); Jesus Perez (costumes); Anna Henson, Rasean Davonte Johnson (projection co-designers); Adrian Juarez (props); Jill Yetsky (stage manager); Kelli Marino (dramaturg); Charlie McGrath (asst. director); Patrick Fries (production manager); Michael Smallwood (tech director); Jeremy Rill (photos)