The Reel Review
Andrew Garfield stars in this Netflix musical about composer Jonathan Larson, who died from an aortic aneurysm just hours before the opening night of his groundbreaking 1996 rock musical Rent, which would go on to win several Tony awards and a Pulitzer Prize, and would become one of Broadway’s longest-running shows. This musical about the making of a musical is based on Larson’s own semi-autobiographical one-man show by the same name, in which he wonders if he made the right career choice.
tick, tick… BOOM! is very self-referential… very theatrical… and packed with a frenetic, panicked energy representative of Larson’s personality. Tony award winner Garfield (Angels in America), who learned how to sing for his musical film debut, is astoundingly good as the emotional, career-obsessed artist, supported by a terrific ensemble cast that includes Vanessa Hudgens, Alexandria Shipp (Love, Simon) and Robin de Jesus (In the Heights). Lin-Manuel Miranda, in his film directorial debut, loads up this tribute to his idol Larson with tons of insider nods to Broadway theater and a cavalcade of cameo appearances.
But for the casual viewer, this gushing love letter to Broadway theater and until the finale, a mostly self-absorbed Larson, smacks of smug self indulgence and an insiderness that will be off-putting to many. But for its target audience – adoring fans both of Larson and the creative process of musical theater – tick, tick… BOOM! is a rousing tribute.
• tick, tick… BOOM! director and Hamilton and In The Heights creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose own successful Broadway career was inspired by seeing Rent at the age of 17, appears in the Sunday brunch musical number as the cook. The diner’s patrons are all Broadway legends, with the three “bums” played by original Rent cast members Adam Pascal, Daphne Rubin-Vega and Wilson Jermaine Heredia.
• The late Stephen Sondheim, who for years, cultivated and mentored young playwrights at his Young Playwrights Festival prior to his death at age 91 on November 26, 2021, actually wrote the script for his voicemail in the scene where he leaves a message on Larson’s answering machine in tick, tick, BOOM!
• Lin-Manuel Miranda was intent on having Jonathan Larson credited for the score of tick, tick… BOOM!, using some unused Larson songs in the film.