There’s a special thrill associated with projects like Tick, Tick…BOOM!, the revised, three-person version of Jonathan Larson’s “rock monologue.” It’s the excitement of witnessing someone with great talent finding their voice, and it’s just one of the things that made this Out of the Box Theatre Company production of the show at Center Stage so beguiling. You can see and hear the musical mind that will be responsible for RENT emerging, growing more substantial, and flourishing as the story progresses. Nikko Arce was sharp and relatable as Jonathan, Carzie Carter was graceful, goofy when necessary, and lyrical as his best friend and roommate Michael, and Samantha Eve, who also directed, was powerful and focused as Jonathan’s girlfriend, Susan.
In Act One, Jonathan struggles with the weight of an unfinished project. Susan wants to leave New York, and Michael has taken a high-paid job in marketing. Without much hope for the future of Superbia, the forlorn dystopian musical he’s about to present as a workshop, Jonathan can’t do justice to either relationship. When he riffs on the work of his favorite composer, Stephen Sondheim, in the song “Sunday,” about his day job as a waiter in a diner, we begin to hear that he’s capable of greatness. Yet the following number, “Therapy,” reveals his genius. It’s a patter duet that out-Sondheims Sondheim, blending speech, different musical genres, anger, heartbreak, and humor into one irresistible souffle.
Act Two deepens and elevates the promise of the opening, giving the other two performers chances to shine. Samantha Eve sang the show’s most significant number, “Come to Your Senses,” with confidence and feeling. It was great to be back at Center Stage for a classic example of the Out of the Box magic.
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