Tick, Tick…Boom! tells the story of a promising young composer, Jon (Jef Flores). Things will become different in January 1990 when he turns 30. For him, this means that he will not be “young” anymore. He’s reached his deadline. At 30, he should have had kids already like his father did. He should have had sold-out plays on Broadway! At 30, he’s still a promising composer. He’s been promising for years now and he’s afraid that he’s “starting to break the f***ing promise.” His is a sad but familiar story.
The show opens, lights out, with a ticking sound in the background. When faint lights from both sides shine on the stage, we see a simple, restrained set: A keyboard is fixed at stage left, a small studio apartment at the center and an empty space at stage right. Hanging on the ceiling, very conspicuously, is an abstract fixture of concentric, broken rings. It seems to symbolize the slow unraveling of Jon’s life as an almost-thirty-year-old. It draws you in and it adds to the panic. You feel Jon’s fears and anxiety. At the same time, it relaxes you and it slows down the little time Jon has left as he narrates his story.
Pressure coming from his father, girlfriend Susan (Tanya Manalang), best friend Michael (Ariel Reonal) and mainly from himself bring Jon to a crossroads. His father inadvertently rubs salt to his wounds when he informs Jon about his brother-in-law having sold a month-old screenplay. Susan, a dancer who teaches ballet to snobby, rich kids, shares Jon’s fate of being “unsuccessful” in their chosen fields. Like most of us, Susan is ready to give up her dream and move on to the next chapter. Michael, on the other hand, has already given up on his passion for acting, and is now a successful research executive.
Jon can’t decide if he will move out of New York and build a family with Susan, join Michael in his firm, or pursue his passion of staging the world’s next best musical.
Jon being the narrator stays on stage throughout the one hour and thirty-five minute musical. He transports us to the events of the week that led to his birthday. This includes Susan planning for his birthday, Michael bringing him to a brainstorming session in his firm and even him working as a waiter for Sunday brunch.
Also, one of which is when he and Susan sang about her green dress. At first, I was boggled by the relevance of this song. I even read a review, which questioned Tick, Tick‘s material. Thinking about it, fun songs like Green Green Dress (and Sunday even Sugar) are all part of Jon’s journey into making his decision. The details may not be as relatable as the lyrics of a Taylor Swift hit but the songs show Jon temporarily escaping his anxiety.
I can’t think of anyone best fit to play the role of Jon except for Jef Flores. In interviews, Jef has always mentioned that he easily gets tired because he is getting “older.” Well, it didn’t show in this particular performance. He was consistent all throughout—from the funny parts to the most dramatic scenes. His rendition of Why was sealed everything perfectly. I commend him for staying in character even when he almost got into an accident after the table he was standing on broke into pieces. We all thought it was part of the show, so, bravo!
Tanya Manalang and Ariel Reonal did splendid jobs in their multiple roles. Both Saigon alumni expectedly gave flawless and not to mention witty performances. Tanya shined best in her solo number as Karesa, the lead actress in Superbia (Jon’s musical). Tanya’s Come To Your Senses gave me goosies all over! Ariel as Michael brought high emotions as he revealed to Jon that he was HIV-positive. His mic had a technical problem but that was not a problem for the veteran thespian.
The three-actor ensemble gelled so much that it was a feast for the eyes and ears having them on one stage. Robbie Guevara admitted that the chemistry was not there at first but theater has a way of making magic.
Tick, Tick…Boom! is set in the 90’s but, surprisingly to this day, there’s an element to the show that still hits you right in the heart. Millennials and the members of the X-generation have a lot more in common than we think. As a 20-something professional, I found myself reflecting on my own life choices as the deconstructed clock of life floating in the middle silently judged me. Back in my college years, we were asked to jot down our goals and aspirations and seal them in a time capsule. I’ve been its keeper for five years running. We haven’t decided when to finally open it. But, frankly, I don’t think I want to. I can still remember what I’ve written! How I had seen myself in five years. Haha! Tawa na lang. All of it is still yet to be realized. That is, if I still see my future the same way back then.
I think whether we pursue our passion or not, like Jon’s, our tick, tick, booms will always be there. We just have to learn to live with them. Know and remember why you do what you do and you’ll be just fine.
If I play loud enough, I can drown them out completely. – Jon
Catch 9 Works Theatrical’s Tick, Tick…Boom!, directed by Robbie Guevara, on its final weekend at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium of the RCBC Plaza in Makati City. Tickets are available at TicketWorld.