Tick, Tick… Boom!: Meet your new favorite musical obsession

The film’s stars were in full force at the New York premiere, from left: Judith Light, Robin de Jesus, Alexandra Shipp, Andrew Garfield, Vanessa Hudgens, Ben Levi Ross, and Joshua Henry. | Photo by Monica Schipper

Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda’s feature directorial debut is a definite must-see for every film lover out there. If you adore musicals? Grab your popcorn.

An adaptation of the autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson (who revolutionized theater as the creator of ‘Rent’), ‘Tick, Tick… Boom!’ is an honest-to-goodness love letter to musicals, and to a great extent, chasing the Broadway dream, and who better to deliver it than Miranda himself.

The Netflix movie tells the story of the late Larson, played with aplomb by Andrew Garfield who delivered an incredibly raw and compelling performance worthy of an Oscar nod.

“I just want to tell great stories because that’s what gets me out of bed every morning. It’s a feeling like you can offer something healing, something soulful, like Jonathan Larson did,” the 38-year-old Garfield told CBS Sunday Morning.

Garfield and Miranda enjoy a moment at the New York premiere of their film Tick, Tick…Boom! | | Photo by Monica Schipper

Miranda and Garfield, and the rest of the supporting cast were present at the New York City premiere of the film celebrating the work and impact of Larson on Broadway held at the Schoenfeld Theatre on Monday, November 15.

Vanessa Hudgens, Alexandra Shipp, and Robin de Jesus provided ample support that kept the show going. Bradley Whitford as the legendary Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim? Yes, please.

Watching it at the Schoenfeld Theater made it more special as every musical number was awarded with hearty applause from the audience. Seeing Broadway stars in their cameo roles was a major bonus.

I saw Garfield’s portrayal of Prior Walter in ‘Angels in America’ a few years ago and I was awestruck by the way he attacked the role which gave him a Tony Award. Miranda saw Garfield’s performance as well and describes it as fearless and vulnerable.

“I didn’t know if he could sing but I knew he could do anything,” Miranda said in a talkback with the cast after a screening in New York.

In this film, Garfield shows his singing chops as he ably highlights his vocal range in 30/90, the opening number where he sings about turning 30 and being at a crossroads, facing the question everyone must reckon with: What are we meant to do with the time we have?

Even his costars are impressed.

Vanessa Hudgens | Photo by Monica Schipper

Hudgens told Collider in October 2021, “I’m just such a big Jonathan Larson fan and it’s just a special, special project because audiences are gonna be able to hear songs that they probably never heard before, and just really get a glimpse into Jonathan’s mind. Andrew did such a fantastic job portraying him.”

The Disney alum plays the role of Karessa, a backup vocalist in Larson’s one-man play. She previously essayed the roles of Maureen and Mimi in ‘Rent’ a few years ago.

“The question that it asks is universal, which is “Am I doing what I should be doing with the time that I have?” Because our time really is so limited and it makes you be mindful and look at yourself and be like “What are my priorities?” and that’s beautiful, it’s a gift,” Hudgens said in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel.

The film follows the life of Larson as a young theater composer who’s waiting tables at a New York City diner in 1990 while writing the dystopian ‘Superbia’, which he hopes will be the next great American musical.

Days before he’s due to showcase his work in a make-or-break performance, he is feeling the pressure from everywhere: from his girlfriend Susan (Alexandra Shipp), who dreams of an artistic life beyond New York City; from his best friend Michael (Tony Award nominee Robin de Jesús), who has moved on from his dream to a life of financial security; amidst an artistic community being ravaged by the AIDS epidemic.

Larson originally performed the show solo in 1990. His career breakthrough happened when he composed ‘Rent’, which opened on Broadway in 1996. Larson died at age 35 on the morning of the first off-Broadway preview for ‘Rent’ after suffering an aortic aneurysm caused by an undiagnosed Marfan condition.

Miranda said that he watched ‘Rent’ on his 17th birthday in 1997 (with last-row tickets at the Nederlander Theater) and it inspired him to write one-act musicals and has often spoken about how much Larson’s early work informed his own.

He was once more inspired by Larson as a senior theater major when he watched the initial off-Broadway run of ‘Tick, Tick… Boom!’ in 2001 a month after the September 2001 attacks.

Director Lin-Manuel Miranda and Andrew Garfield prepare for a scene in the screen adaptation of Tick, Tick…Boom!, based on the life of playwright Jonathan Larson. The film debuts on Netflix on Friday, Nov. 19. Netflix Photos by Macall Polay

Larson’s legacy continues with this film, 30 years after he pioneered it as a solo work and 25 years after his untimely death.

‘Tick, Tick… Boom!’ is written by Tony Award winner Steven Levenson, and produced by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard for Imagine Entertainment, Julie Oh, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. It is showing in theaters and streaming on Netflix beginning Friday, Nov. 19.

Momar G. Visaya

Momar G. Visaya is the Executive Editor of the Asian Journal. You can reach him at momar.visaya@asianjournalinc.com.

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