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tick... tick, BOOM Brings Jonathan Larson's Legacy to Netflix

Updated: Mar 20, 2022

On Friday, November 19th, the movie musical I have been waiting for all year came out on Netflix. Jonathan Larson’s autobiographical tick, tick… BOOM! has made its way to screens all over the world.

The story follows Jonathan Larson, a musical theatre writer who is fast approaching his 30th birthday, and the first workshop presentation of the musical he’s been writing for years.

As the voiceover introducing the film says,

“Everything you’re about to see is true, except for the parts that Jonathan made up.”

This silver screen adaptation marks the directorial debut of Lin-Manuel Miranda, with a screenplay written by Steven Levenson, and stars Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesus, Joshua Henry, and Vanessa Hudgens.

Before I start this, I need to extend a heartfelt thank you to the team behind this film. Jonathan Larson’s legacy is something beloved to so many people, and this piece was created in a way which honoured everything he set out to do. It’s the sort of movie musical story where you pray the show is in the right hands, and it certainly was across the board.

Lin-Manuel Miranda is who I want at the helm of every movie musical. It’s a stunning debut. Miranda is a self-proclaimed “card-carrying” theatre fan, and his love for the art form and respect from Jonathan Larson’s legacy shine through each moment of the film.

When we look at the film adaptation, it’s important to remember that the stage production of tick, tick… BOOM features a cast of three people, two of them playing multiple roles, and minimalistic staging. While this could have been a challenge with adapting it to a movie, it also opened up endless possibilities when it came to what was possible on film.

Steven Levenson, who wrote the screenplay, did a fantastic job! So much of the source material is kept intact, and what has changed only expands on what already existed within the script.

The brilliant script and clear, passionate vision are joined by stunning cinematography, which takes the audience on a guided tour of New York City through the eyes of Jonathan Larson.

The source material is already a masterpiece, and the elements of the adaptation only enhance what already existed, creating what might be the best movie musical of all time.

The story is presented by an extraordinarily talented cast, and the team who assembled this group of actors did a fantastic job.

Andrew Garfield gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Jonathan Larson, and were this a stage production, it would certainly be Tony-nominated. Everyone was surprised when the film’s trailer featured Garfield’s golden vocals, and the film, and now the album, is an auditory gem! His gorgeous voice is joined by the superb acting skills we already knew he had, but for me, the combination took it to another level. His performance is heart-warming and heart-breaking all at once, and I truly can’t imagine the film being led by anyone else.

Another standout performance is Robin de Jesus in the role of Michael. His work in this film is earth-shattering and breath-taking. I don’t want to spoil the film, but oh my goodness, sheer brilliance.

Rounding out the cast are Alexandra Shipp as Susan, Joshua Henry as Roger, Vanessa Hudgens as Karessa, and Judith Light as Rosa.

Each performer brings something beautiful and memorable to these roles, and sparkle on screen.

Speaking of clever castings and performance, I don’t know who the masterminds are behind Bradley Whitford’s Stephen Sondheim, but my goodness, it was brilliant! From makeup, to mannerisms, and tone of voice, Whitford was spot on!

One of the best things about tick, tick… BOOM is that it is filled with juicy tidbits, from starry cameos from Broadway stars, clever Easter eggs, and even an added song from Jonathan Larson’s catalogue, Swimming. Again, I will avoid spoilers, but an entirely separate blog post could be made about just these pieces.

This film is everything I wanted and more. This story is one of my favourites onstage, and it was lovingly created into a film which celebrates and shares Jonathan Larson’s life and legacy.

If this is your first introduction to Jonathan Larson, or to his work outside of RENT, I invite and encourage you to explore his catalogue. He was the future of musical theatre, and the voice of a generation.

In addition to celebrating Larson, tick, tick... BOOM is a love letter to artists everywhere. The show has always been a tribute to the life of the artist: from following your heart, defining success, and the pressure that makes you feel like you’re running out of time to do something great. Every artist has experienced something like that, especially over the last two years.

This was a film and a story I needed to hear right now, and I think many members of the theatre community would agree with me.

I was definitely healed by this film, and I will be watching it over and over again.

The last great thing I’m going to tell you about this movie is that it’s available on Netflix, making it accessible to everyone! So, go check it out, it’s the best I’ve ever seen.

And as always, thank you Jonathan Larson.

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