Innovation Theatre Works' new production, tick, tick... Boom! is the rock and pop autobiography of Jonathan Larson, best known as the creator of Broadway sensation Rent. Fans of musical theater will enjoy the pitch-perfect singing of main character Jon, played with enthusiasm by Matt Lutz, who commands the stage with the frenetic energy of a wind-up toy smack in the middle of an early midlife crisis.
His girlfriend Susan, played by porcelain songbird Olivia Cherryholmes, presses Jon to give up his dreams and settle into East Hampton domestic bliss as the age of 30 ticks ever so near. John navigates his existential pangs and soothes his Peter Pan complex by condensing his life into rollicking rock show tunes that canonize everything from his jealousy over not driving a BMW to his borderline shameful love of the Twinkie.
This show is meant for audiences to embrace its musicality and kinetic energy rather than expect a complex narrative about growing older without success, which came to Larson after writing this play. His frustration about floundering in the arts is not palpable because the musical numbers are, well, fun. I found the inside jokes challenging, like the reverence for Stephen Sondheim, but enjoyed the suspended belief that an audience outside of New York would understand the layout of Central Park enough to imagine Jon, in a moment of despair, spinning closer and closer to its fabled carousel.
Scene stealer Kyle Nudo, who plays Larson's best friend, Michael, has the opportunity to add depth as the plot advances, but it is no fault of the actors that the material centers around the mundane details of life made musical than a treatise about suffering for the sake of creating art.
And maybe profundity is not what musical theatre is really about. I haven't heard singing this powerful on a Bend stage since Rick Johnson wowed audiences as the Emcee in Cat Call Production's Cabaret. The addition of a live band propelled the numbers forward, with the drumming of Jared Forqueran providing a personal highlight.
tick, tick...Boom! elevates what fans of musical theatre have come to expect in Central Oregon, and if that is the overriding point of this production, I consider it a success.
tick, tick... Boom!
8pm Wednesday-Saturday, June 22 - June 25. 2pm Sunday, June 26. Bend Performing Arts Center, 1155 SW Division St. $15-$20. Tickets at innovationtw.org.