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‘tick, tick...BOOM!’: Robin’s movie review

A movie poster for the film “tick, tick...BOOM!” A man is sitting at a piano with a microphone pointed toward him. A spotlight is projected on him while he looks away from the camera.

For this week’s Movie Minutes, KUNR entertainment reviewer Robin Holabird looks at a new musical born from a Broadway hit.

Broadway legends explode with life in tick, tick…BOOM!, the new musical from Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame. Miranda, already a legend himself at age 41, pays tribute to one of his inspirations, the playwright Jonathan Larson, who reached mythic proportions by tragically dying before seeing his play Rent open on Broadway — and win both the Tony and Pulitzer Prize. No spoiler alert here, tick, tick…BOOM! lets audiences in on the tragedy right away, before turning the story over to Larson’s own recounting of creating a stage musical.

Based on what Larson called a “musical monologue” he performed before Rent opened, tick, tick…BOOM! initially ran in 1993 as a small-scale show three years before Rent opened and transformed the Broadway musical by putting rock songs into a story featuring both high culture inspiration from the opera La Boèhme and headline dominating issues like AIDS. This in turn encouraged Miranda’s career, and he celebrates his inspirational source by mounting a high-end, cinematic interpretation of Larson’s lesser-known work.

With an ear for music and eye for visuals, Miranda succeeds in preserving the source material’s stage roots while pushing forward into the energy and movement required by cinema. In Miranda’s hands, this goes beyond the simplistic idea of merely switching action into real locations. Cutting between scenes on a simply lit stage to indoor and outdoor spaces, he lets characters stretch out with energetic dance steps and costume changes impossible to imitate in the confines of a Broadway theater.

One highlight comes with a tribute to another Broadway master, Steven Sondheim, whose classics include Sunday in the Park with George. Simply called “Sunday,” the song brings cameos from such musical legends as Chita Rivera, Bernadette Peters, Bebe Neuwirth, plus Miranda and a couple of his Hamilton cohorts. Taking the center spotlight, Andrew Garfield shows musical chops he never revealed as one of the many screen Spiderman guys and gives a rounded performance perfectly suited to Larson’s stage persona. With action focusing on the creative process more than strict biography or fantasy tales, tick, tick…BOOM! delivers a fun romp for fans of Broadway and its musical traditions.

Designed for release in cinemas, the movie screens on Netflix.

Robin Holabird is KUNR’s entertainment reviewer, author and former film commissioner for the Nevada Film Office. You can hear all of her reviews here.

Robin Holabird reviews movies for KUNR, and her reviews have aired for more than 30 years. During that time, she has had a high profile in the Nevada film community.
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