published Thursday, May 8th, 2014

'Tick, Tick ... Boom'

Theater for the New South counts down its third season with pre-'Rent' story.

Jeffrey Parker plays aspiring composer Jon, based on the pre-"Rent" career of playwright/composer Jonathan Larson, in the Theater for the New South production of "Tick, Tick ... Boom!"
Jeffrey Parker plays aspiring composer Jon, based on the pre-"Rent" career of playwright/composer Jonathan Larson, in the Theater for the New South production of "Tick, Tick ... Boom!"
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

IF YOU GO

What: "Tick, Tick ... Boom!" by Theater for the New South.

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 9-10; and Thursday-Sunday, May 15-18.

Where: Jim G. Lewis Studio Theater, UTC Fine Arts Center, 752 Vine St.

Admission: $20.

Website: theaterforthenewsouth.com.

Theater for the New South returns to its original venue to present the first musical in its three-year history. Jonathan Larson's "Tick, Tick ... Boom!" will be presented in six performances over the next two weekends, May 9-10 and 15-18, in the Jim G. Lewis Studio Theater in the UTC Fine Arts Center. The UTC Theatre Company is co-sponsoring the production.

Larson's name is most often associated with the Broadway blockbuster "Rent." "Tick, Tick ... Boom!," his only other musical, is the autobiographical tale that follows the playwright/composer on the journey that led to that Pulitzer Prize and three-time Tony Award winner.

In "Tick, Tick ... Boom!," Larson takes a voyage of personal discovery, summoning the courage to follow a dream as he faces the looming age of 30. The main character, Jon, worries that he has made the wrong career choice to be part of the performing arts.

A persistent ticking sound can be heard as he introduces himself. "The sound you are hearing is not a technical problem," he explains to the audience. "It is not a musical cue. It is not a joke. It is the sound of one man's mounting anxiety. I am that man."

"Having the opportunity to physicalize the intimate thoughts of Jonathan Larson, one of our generation's strongest and most influential voices in musical theater, has been an amazing experience," says director Blake Harris. "This piece was originally written by Larson as a musical monologue that gave a snapshot of his life pre-'Rent.'

"Having died the night before the (off-Broadway) opening of 'Rent,' Larson never witnessed the profound influence he had on musical theater," Harris says. "This musical gives us a glimpse at the insecurities and woes that this artist, and artists of any kind, experience in the creative process."

The story is set in New York City, circa 1990, and is told from Larson's point of view, using storytelling and interactions with various people in his life. It contains 14 songs, from rock music to intimate ballads. Three actors -- Jeffery Parker, Maggie McNulty and Terrance Wright -- are featured. The musical director is Curtis Jolley.

Marketing director Cayce Gearrin says the Theater for the New South principals feel a sense of nostalgia for the venue.

"The Jim G. Lewis Studio is the same studio TFNS performed its first ever show, 'Woyzeck' by Georg Buchner, in 2011, and it only seems fitting to perform our first ever musical in the same space."

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