Monumental Theatre Company has returned to in-person live theater and they are back with a bang. Or should I say boom?!
Their current production is Jonathan Larson’s tick, tick…BOOM! Music, lyrics, and book are by Larson, who is better known for being the creator of RENT. He initially performed the show as a solo piece. But after his death, the show was revamped by David Auburn into a piece for three actors.
The story is a semi-autobiography of creator Jon Larson and follows a young composer (also Jon) living in New York City in the ’90s. He grapples with his approaching 30th birthday, an upcoming workshop for his show SUPERBIA that could make or break his career, and a growing fear that he may have to give up his dream.
Directed by Michael Windsor, with musical direction by Marika Countouris and choreography by David Singleton, the show is a high-energy musical blast with a live band, led by Countouris, and a trio of actors who collectively deliver an emotionally packed performance.
The show is set in a cozy living room space with assorted couches, sofas, lounge chairs, and loveseats spread around facing the center of the room, accompanied by various side and coffee tables. The audience is seated around the room as part of the stage and is comfortably casual, which works perfectly for a show with a cast this size and creates an intimate sense of connection between the audience and the actors.
Christian Montgomery plays Jon. Alex De Bard plays his girlfriend, Susan, and Tyler Dobies is Jon’s lifelong best friend, Micheal, but the two each also play a handful of tertiary characters (parents, agents, waiters, etc). The cast get their steps in weaving around the room, jumping on tables, and climbing over cushions. The entire room is the stage and they use every corner.
The show is narrated by Jon as he sets scenes and lays out the story but mainly articulates his constant inner manic dialogue riddled with anxiety, fear of failure, self-doubt, and a constant ticking like dozens of clocks clicking off the minutes until the end. In “30/90” Jon laments turning 30 in 1990 and his lack of achievement as he approaches that milestone.
Jon and Susan are a loving happy couple and sing the fun and sexy “Green Green Dress,” which is literally all about how beautiful Susan looks in her (you guessed it) green dress — they’re not wrong. But its simplicity and joy are a beautiful reflection of the couple’s dynamics. Montgomery and De Bard’s voices blend beautifully and the energy between them is exciting to watch.
Susan, who is a dancer turned teacher, suggests moving from New York to start a family and new career, but Jon sings “Johnny Can’t Decide” as he contemplates abandoning his composing for a more stable life. But then he shifts into the hilarious “Sunday” once he remembers he has to work the Sunday shift at a SoHo diner. This was one of my favorite numbers of the evening. The song is an homage to Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George” and is a lovely mix of sarcasm, frustration, and hilarity. De Bard and Dobies are especially fun to watch as they switch between various characters in the song, disgruntled waiters and patronizing patrons of the diner.
Jon’s friend Michael, who is also a former performer who left theater for a solid career, is showing him his new apartment and sings “No More,” reveling in his new luxuries. Micheal has also been pushing Jon to take a job at his agency, suggesting that Susan’s idea of settling down may be a good one.
The entire vibe of the production is a warm blend of humor, hope, fear, and love. Montgomery is wonderful as Jon and conveys the intense passion he has for music and the stage.
Monumental’s tick, tick…BOOM! is packed with musical numbers that range all over the emotions scale. “Sugar” is a silly piece brought on by Jon’s interaction with one of his actors at the market where they discover their united affinity for Twinkies, which were tossed out to the audience to share in the appreciation.
“Therapy” is another great number that is funny for the wrong reasons, as Jon and Susan have an argument with ridiculously relatable lyrics for anyone who has ever argued as a couple, like
I was wrong to
Say you were wrong to
Say I was wrong about
You being wrong
As the song progresses, the speed increases, and ultimately turns into a dizzying round, at once demonstrating the impressive power and control of Montgomery and De Bard’s vocals.
And then there’s the achingly beautiful “Why,” where Jon sifts through different memories of perfect days he’s spent with Michael working on different theater projects and how those moments shaped his life and his dream of being a composer. Montgomery sings with his entire body and heart and this song in particular brought me to tears.
tick, tick…BOOM! is a fantastic show and Monumental has made it their own. I highly recommend catching this one before the run ends. The cast is simply a joy to watch. And Larson’s material is bittersweet, as life often is.
The creative team has done a wonderful job mounting this project and I, for one, left the theater thinking contentedly, “Hey, what a way to spend a day.”
Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.
tick, tick…Boom! plays through July 30, 2022, presented by Monumental Theatre Company performing at the Ainslie Arts Center on the campus of Episcopal High School, 3900 West Braddock Road, Alexandria, VA. Tickets ($65) are available online.
COVID Safety: All patrons attending a Monumental production must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and will be required to wear a mask during the show. Vaccination status will be checked at the door. If you are unvaccinated, you must provide a negative PCR test within the last 72 hours or a negative rapid test within the last 4 hours. Patrons will not be admitted without proof of vaccination or a negative test.
Christian Montgomery (Jon), Alex De Bard (Susan), Tyler Dobies (Michael),
Henry Kristian Cox (Jon u/s), Caroline Graham (Susan u/s), Tony Lemus (Michael u/s)
Marika Countouris (Keyboard), Nick Granziano III (Bass), Alec Green (Guitar), Sam Carolla (Drums), Additional Musicians: Jason Siler–Guitar, Sam Warden–Bass
Director: Michael Windsor, Music Director: Marika Countouris, Choreographer: David Singleton, Casting Director: Meg Bunn, Production Stage Manager: Luis Ramon Cordovez, Technical Director & Props Designer: Yaritza Pacheco, Lighting Designer: Venus Gulbranson, Sound Designer: Draper Carter, Costume Designer: Robert Croghan, Wardrobe Manager: Katie Burke, Covid Consultant: Dr. Abby Nolan
Monumental Theatre Company
Jimmy Mavrikes: Co-Artistic Director, Michael Windsor: Co-Artistic Director, Beth Amann: Managing Director