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Director Musings: Will Davis on tick, tick...BOOM!

Digging through this show has been such a great journey through the mind of someone who clearly was a student, a lover, and I’ll even say a nerd about storytelling and musical theatre. Seeing the actors go from scene to scene and prove how well balanced Jonathan Larson is about drama and comedy makes you feel like you’re seeing the inner workings that make Shakespeare great. In a short time he finds a way to give you all of the emotions, the ups and downs of these characters and their lives. It’s evident on the page, but it’s even more clear on the stage. And maybe the most selfishly fun part of this is seeing a theatre person use their own writing to tell their story, and even use it as therapy. Mr Larson lays his brain open and bare for us to see his wants, his worries, his loves, and his fears.

Another unique way to look at this story has been comparing it to the film on Netflix with Andrew Garfield. We live in a world of adaptations, but most often those go from a book to the screen, be it TV or film. There are too many to list, but I’m sure you can think of a few examples that have left you wanting. This adaptation was different though. It is taken from the musical but not directly, the way you see with other major musicals like Les Mis and Little Shop of Horrors. Those mostly stayed very true to the original book, music, and lyrics (aside from a fairly major, but understandable, deviation at the end of Little Shop). In the film of Tick, Tick, Boom, we see what truly is an adaptation. The story is changed, edited, and even songs are added, moved, and removed. All of this with good reason. One is audience size. A musical is never meant to be seen by a cast outnumbering the audience, while a made-for-Netflix film was never intended to be seen by more that probably six people. Another is the nature and culture of film, lending it to a more naturalistic style.

But the truly major difference is the writer. Jonathan Larson can say anything he wants about himself, even the somewhat fictionalized version of himself in his own musical. The film, however, cannot. Well, it can, but I wouldn't want to be the one to give a hint of a slight to the man who changed musical theatre worldwide AND passed away at the age of 35. The film rarely shows him in a bad light because the film is an homage to an incredible talent that never got to see his own success! Truly, a tragedy.

In this staged version however, Mr Larson doesn't pull punches. We see a man so deep in his own story that he forgets to look up. He misses major moments in his friends lives, to all of their detriment. He hurts those he loves on his path, not because he is a bad person, but because he is a foulable person, like all of us. The film can't show us this man, nor should it. The stage production allows us this freedom, forces it on us actually. We get a beautiful warning of what we may miss, if we can't step back and consider not what we do but why we do it. To quote another writer I truly respect "if you think about yourself too much, then you ruin who you love."

Please take the humility and bravery of Jonathan Larson sharing his struggle, and let it ease yours. Take a look around at all the beauty you have in your life and be thankful for it. It dissapear in a heartbeat.


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