Review: Broadway Dreams Drive Big and ‘Tick, Tick … BOOM!’

“Tick, Tick … BOOM!”, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s sweet, well-crafted adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s “Rock Monologue” captures all that’s great and beautiful about musical theater, and a little bit of what makes it infinite , as well .

Miranda’s film, his successful directorial debut, is a portrait of the artist as a deeply passionate, overwhelmingly self-absorbed young man. As played by Andrew Garfield, Larson is a paragon of the artistic struggle. He lives in a dilapidated city apartment with a row of roommates; he does random songs at late night parties; he daydreams while waiting for tables for a meal.

When Jonathan from “Tick, Tick … BOOM!” mythologized seems, is that appropriate. Larson himself never saw his success. He died at the age of 35 from an undiagnosed heart defect, the day his opus, “Rent,” started previewing off-Broadway. Prior to “Rent,” Larson spent years developing a futuristic musical, “Superbia.” When it failed to be produced, he turned the story of that musical into a one-man show about his all-consuming pressure to succeed as an artist before he was 30. The prospect of not being a playwright with a Side-haustle for paying the bills but a waiter with a hobby turns to Larson like a terrifying sweeper. The title of the show, “Tick, Tick … BOOM!” offers a make-or-break countdown.

Miranda’s film is exuberant and grandiose – maybe too much. It’s easy to raise young artistic ambitions, and easier when the dream in question died far too soon. “Tick, Tick … BOOM!” is a tender ode to Larson, just as it is a tribute to any Broadway pursuit. Coming from Miranda, whose own New York set breakthrough, “In the Heights,” was inspired by Larson’s “Rent,” the film is also autobiographical in a broad sense. Miranda’s journey is not Larson’s journey, but as two of the most important American composers and playwrights of the last 30 years, they share a bond of city and quest.

With screenwriter Steven Levenson, Miranda has transformed Larson’s show into something that extends beyond his life and expands his range. It’s 1990 and Larson is fully dedicated to preparing a studio of “Superbia”, and his uniqueness has already attracted many accolades from his dancer girlfriend (Alexandra Shipp, dear) and best friend Michael (Robin De Jesús), a former actor. which instead turned into a high-paying gig in advertising.

“Tick, Tick … BOOM!” is not aware of Larson’s myopia but it is also on his side. When he calls the energy company, which just after unpaid bills cut off its electricity: “You do not understand! I’ve got a studio! “- the scene is not set for comedy. Sondheim, Judith Light as Larson Veteran Agent) and a number of well-staged musical numbers, including the lovely “Sunday”, while Miranda drops a wall from the Moondance Diner and Kameen abounds in the booths.

But the excitement in “Tick, tick … BOOM!” is not really in Larson, as a protagonist. His obsession should be celebrated here, not analyzed. The movie might exist to show us: this is what it takes to make it on Broadway – and in addition, look at what fun it is when you do it. Larson is not always a great company, but he does in “Tick, tick … BOOM!” may be correct. To bet everything on yourself, narcissism could be a prerequisite.

“Tick, Tick … Boom!”, A Netflix release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for strong language, some suggestive material and drug references. Running time: 115 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

Follow AP film writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: