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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

“Tick, tick … Boom!” encourages students to question

Published: September 13, 2013
Section: Arts, Etc.

Most Brandeis students would be lying if they said they’ve never doubted themselves at any point during their academic journey. Questions and doubt naturally arise in the process of realizing our purposes on this campus, both during and long after college. Similarly, these themes of self-doubt and daring to live authentically were explored this past weekend in the production of the rock musical, “Tick, Tick … Boom!”

Performed in Spingold’s Laurie Theater, “Tick, Tick … Boom!” is the senior project of Jackie Theoharis ’14. Presented by the Brandeis Theater Arts Department, including a special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI), “Tick, Tick … Boom!” was originally written by Pulitzer Prize winner Jonathan Larson, perhaps better known for his Tony Award winning musical “Rent.” “Tick, Tick … Boom!” is Larson’s autobiographical story of his own struggles trying to make a name for himself in the world of theater during the 1980s and 1990s in New York City. As such, the plot and monologues—even the namesake of the main narrator—is borrowed from Larson’s own personal life.

“Tick, Tick … Boom!” tells the story of “one man’s melting anxiety.” Specifically, the show follows the first-person narrative of Jon (played by professional Boston-based actor, Jared Walsh). Living in SoHo, Jon is frustrated and disillusioned by his life as a starving artist composing musical theater. With his 30th birthday approaching, Jon experiences an early midlife crisis as he begins to question his career and direction in life. Meanwhile, his relationships with both his girlfriend Susan (Jackie Theoharis ’14) and best friend Michael (Ben Oehlkers ’12) are tested as he tussles between his career and reality. Jon tries to figure out what he wants in life while confronting looming fears that hinder him from reaching his goals. From this, the show can be described as part coming-of-age and part midlife crisis story.

For Theoharis ’14, the choice to produce “Tick, Tick … Boom!” as her senior project was highly personal. “I really connected with the universal themes that every actor thinks of: Why am I doing this?” Theoharis, an education and theater arts double major, said. “Rejection after rejection is extremely tough in show business, I knew the show would inspire others, and I knew that this is something I needed to do as my final hurrah at Brandeis,” Theoharis said.

Theoharis, who played the role of Susan, gave a truly conceiving and lovely performance. Playing the girlfriend who is growing wary of the little-felt success of both her own career and her boyfriend Jon’s, Theoharis brought a touching vulnerability to the role. Although her singing was done well, Theoharis truly shined in her subtle and seasoned acting skills. “Tick, Tick … Boom!” can also be told as a story of conflict and pressure. This was evident in the way Theoharis beautifully portrayed Susan’s conflict between leaving or staying with Jon, against the pressure of finding success and stability in her career.

Walsh was also noteworthy in the way he was able to highlight the conflict and anxiety experienced by Jon as he approaches his 30th birthday in the show.

In addition to believable acting, the overall production of the story was high quality. The set was kept simple and often the movement on stage revolved around Jon’s piano. The bare set helped move each scene forward and did not distract from the musical’s monologues. The musical numbers themselves were fun and whimsical. Of particular note was the song, “Come to Your Senses,” which was performed by Theoharis and was one of the most poignant pieces of the production. Indeed, the musical only utilizes a small cast and simple set, but all three actors solidly carried the show with an effective realization of their characters and universal themes presented, with which anyone can empathize.