Oh, the angst, the angst.
It’s on full display in Winding Road Theater Ensemble‘s production of Jonathan Larson’s “Tick, Tick … Boom!”
Larson was 29 when he wrote this semi-autobiographical play and the titular “tick tick” is the angst he felt as he realized he hadn’t made it — and may never make it — in the musical theater world.
The Winding Road cast is enthusiastic and talented. Tyler Gastelum, as Jon, has a warm tone to his voice which invites you in, but he doesn’t skimp on the rock numbers. Zach Wetzel and Alli Rowe play multiple characters that enrich Larson’s story. Wetzel supports principally as Michael, Jon’s lifelong friend and roommate who has sold out to Madison Avenue and is moving up and out. Rowe shines as Jon’s girlfriend, Susan, and is tasked with carrying multiple supporting female parts. They both deliver with acting and singing.
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A four-piece band provided the rock sound to the minimalist cabaret-esque production. Live music always ups the fun and joy of watching a musical.
Wetzel and Maria A. Caprile co-directed this piece with a clear affection for the material.
But it is the material that suffers here.
Larson was five years away from his blockbuster hit “Rent,” which made its Broadway debut the day after he died.
“Tick, Tick,” which first appeared in 1990, is about his attempts to break out with a futurist musical called “Superbia,” which he workshopped playing all the characters and the piano.
There is a reason “Tick, Tick” never made it — it is self indulgent, has little emotional weight or literary merit. The songs, however, while sometimes overwrought, showed wit and wisdom. The live band adds a rock and roll flair, quintessential of Larson’s style.
The piece gives us a glimpse into the early work of an extraordinary talent. There are shades of “Rent’s” music, characters and scenes in “Tick, Tick.” “Rent” fans will have fun picking out what grew and showed up in that musical. And musical theater fans should enjoy seeing how Larson’s art evolved.
The production runs through Sunday, March 5, at the Cabaret Theatre at the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave.
Tickets are $30. For more information or reservations, visit windingroadtheater.org or call 520-401-3626.