Fittingly enough, it is on Tuesday night that McGill’s Tuesday Night Café (TNC) Theatre premiered its first show of the season, none other than Jonathan Larson’s Tick, Tick…BOOM! If the name of the playwright rings a bell, it’s probably because you’ve heard of his magnum opus, Rent, on the other hand, is a lesser-known, yet still highly entertaining and well-crafted gem of a musical with a killer soundtrack.
The play, which is loosely based on the life of its author, revolves around Jon, an aspiring composer who moves to Manhattan with his girlfriend in the hopes of writing the next great American musical. Unfortunately for Jon, life does not unravel as planned. As he is about to turn 30, the pressures in Jon’s life begin to weigh down on him. In particularly stressful moments, Jon becomes increasingly aware of the irritating-but-strangely-intriguing ticking sound in his head, which often ends with a sudden explosion.
The three-actor piece, presented as an enthralling journey into the life of aspiring artists in the 1990s, is brilliantly executed by Brendan Macdonald, in the main role of Jon. His compelling stage presence, conveyed through mobility and enthusiasm, transfers his onstage energy to the audience. The charming Teodora Mechetiuc, in the role of Jon’s girlfriend Susan, also brought her goods to the table by delivering exceptional vocal performances. Mechetiuc seems to live for the stage, and her versatility is ideally suited to this kaleidoscopic musical. The third and final actor, Nathaniel Hanula-James, in the role of Jon’s best friend Mike, complemented Jon’s story well, offering a contrast to the protagonist’s life, and certainly added to the show’s appeal by regularly flashing his ten thousand dollar smile.
Highlights from the show included Mechetiuc’s impeccable rendition of “Come To Your Senses,” a heartfelt ballad about breaking up, looking at life from a fresh perspective, and moving on. The trio also performed outstandingly well during “Johnny Can’t Decide,” about Jon’s unwillingness to change his ‘starving artist’ lifestyle, and “Louder Than Words,” the play’s final song.
The director of the play, Jon Corkal, revealed that he chose to direct this play due to his belief that he and Larson have a lot more in common than a first name. He also mentioned his desire to partake in McGill’s musical theatre legacy. Having previously acted in Sweeney Todd and West Side Story, both staged at McGill’s Moyse Hall, it was only natural for him to move on to directing a musical, an evidently successful challenge.
Musicals are a rare choice for McGill’s student-run theatre groups, yet it is in small venues that they shine the most. Despite the bare set and lack of varied costumes, TNC’s intimacy allows for a connection between the performers and the audience members, something that most mainstream musical productions lack. Tick, Tick…BOOM! itself stands out as an authentic portrayal of the nitty gritty side of life folded into a reach-for-the-stars musical. A unique play performed by a dedicated cast, Tick Tick… BOOM! is truly a must-see.
Tick, Tick…BOOM! will run from October 23 to 26 at 8 p.m. in the Morrice Hall in the Islamic Studies building. Tickets are $6 for students and $10 for adults. Reservations can be made by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and are highly recommended, given the limited number of seats.