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Photo courtesy Forte Musical Theatre

Tick, Tick…Boom! hits Calgary

By Medina Mohammed, March 8 2023

Tick, Tick… Boom!, written by the late Jonathan Larson, opened in Calgary at the Big Secret Theatre at Arts Commons on Feb. 28 and closes on March 12. The rock musical follows Larson, the award-winning composer of Rent, on the journey to creating his Broadway megahit. The cast features Dane Bjornson as Jon, Jessica Jones Deroche as Susan, and Joel Schaefer as Michael. The award-winning JP Thibodeau directs the musical. 

Thibodeau is a veteran director of 25 years, with works such as Urban Jungle Book, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, Lest We Forget and, most recently, We Will Rock You, in which he worked with Queen for the North American tour of their musical. Thibodeau has won several Betty Mitchell Award Nominations and the Greg Bond Memorial Award and has been short-listed twice for the Rozsa Award. Thibodeau was asked to direct Tick, Tick… Boom! and accepted as both an admirer of Larson and Rent, as well as a fan of the Netflix movie. 

Thibodeau believes this is an impactful story that will leave a mark on its audience, and the musical is something that he believes audiences will not expect. Thibodeau deems the show’s theme incredibly relevant in today’s society — the theme of acting now rather than later and reflecting on what is important. For Thibodeau, theatre is about people, the connections, and the impacts that one person can have, which is a significant part of his directorial style for this musical. 

A challenge Thibodeau faced in his interpretation of the rock musical was the audience members who would have seen the Netflix movie before seeing the story told on stage. Tick, Tick… Boom! is a rock musical that was a revolutionary idea in theatre at the time of conception. Musically, Jonathan Larson was fascinated with Stephen Sondheim, a detail that Thibodeau has taken extra care to include in the visuals and how it affected Larson. 

Aspects of this adaptation that are unique to Thibodeau’s adaptation include the staging of the show, the focus on the apartment, and a piano on wheels. Prior to beginning his work of Tick, Tick… Boom! Thibodeau researched other productions and decided the best way to stage the musical was as a true musical rather than a rock concert, a concept popular with other adaptations. However, the main focus while on stage is the apartment where Jon and Michael live, and “everything evolves from that,” according to Thibodeau. The piano on wheels is entirely unique to this show. The script did not feature the character of Jon playing the piano, which was something that Thibodeau felt was integral to his characterization. Throughout the play, the audience will see Jon playing the piano while being wheeled around the stage by the other characters.

Walking into the theatre, audiences should expect a fun, light-hearted musical following the story about an artist struggling to gain recognition for his now-revolutionary work. Tickets are on sale now at the Arts Commons website.

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