Capacity Crowds for Tick, Tick … Boom

by Molly Gilmore

Broadway Olympia’s Tick, Tick … Boom, running through July 14, is drawing capacity crowds at OlyTheater, and among the people standing in line for seats on opening weekend were some who’d never before visited the small black box theater in Capital Mall. “We’ve added 10 seats, and the show is still selling out,” said Broadway Olympia founder Kyle Murphy.

Michael (Henry Talbot Dorset), left, has left his theatrical ambitions behind, while Jon (Guy Taylor Simpson) is trying to find someone to produce his musical in Broadway Olympia’s “Tick, Tick … Boom.”

Before he changed musical theater with Rent, Jonathan Larson was an aspiring composer who made his living waiting tables. His years of struggle inspired the semiautobiographical Boom, which he first performed in 1990 as a one-man show called Boho Days.

The show was turned into a multicharacter musical by playwright David Auburn after Larson, then just 35, died of an aortic aneurysm on Jan. 25, 1996 — the day before Rent opened Off-Broadway. The seminal rock musical, based on the opera La Boheme, moved to Broadway later that year and went on to win its creator three posthumous Tony Awards and a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The backstory adds drama to the often-funny show, in which Jon (Guy Taylor Simpson) sees his impending 30th birthday as a deadline for achieving success. (The crisis the character has over reaching that advanced age without making it big might seem a bit overblown if you didn’t know that Larson truly was running out of time.)

Aspiring composer Jon (Simpson) and his girlfriend, Susan (Melissa Fleming Maañao), are at a crossroads in their relationship.

Jon is working hard on a dystopian musical called Superbia (as did Larson). He feels mounting pressure because his girlfriend, Susan (Melissa Fleming Maañao), wants to move to Cape Cod and his best friend, Michael (Henry Talbot Dorset), has stopped pursuing theater to take a lucrative marketing job.

Auburn adapted Boom for a cast of three, with the actors playing Susan and Michael playing all of the other roles as well. The Broadway Olympia production gives most of the smaller roles to an ensemble (Sophie Bustetter, Jesse Morrow and Brooke Upton, whose roles include the lead in a workshop production of Superbia).

Rent’s massive success coupled with Larson’s early death spurred interest in Boom, which had several Off-Broadway runs and one national tour and became widely known thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s well-received 2021 film version, The power of Rent certainly helped to draw Murphy and director Melanie Gladstone to the project.

“For me and Kyle, Rent was our generation’s big cultural moment,” said Gladstone, who also directed Broadway Olympia’s 2023 The Last Five Years. “To be able to take part in a Jon Larson piece is very exciting.”

“I picked this show because Jonathan Larson’s music has been a part of my life since I was 16, and the opportunity to tell his story was something that appealed to me,” Murphy said. “I felt it lent itself to our space. It’s actually been on my radar since 2017, and was suggested to me as an option for our first season.”

It was in that first season, back in 2018, that Murphy, Gladstone and Simpson first met. Simpson played Brad in the company’s The Rocky Horror Show, and Gladstone of Tacoma played Columbia and did the choreography. Dorset, too, was in Rocky, playing Riff Raff.

Photos by Ashley Roy.

Tick, Tick … Boom

7:30 p.m. July 8, 12 and 13 and 2:30 p.m. July 14

OlyTheater, Capital Mall, 625 Black Lake Blvd., Olympia

$15 and $25; for the July 8 performance, pay what you choose.


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