By Minda Honey | Arts & Entertainment
A few weeks ago, I paid a visit to Acting Against Cancer’s new black box theatre at ArtSpace during a rehearsal for their upcoming production of rock musical “tick, tick…BOOM!” by Jonathan Larson. It is the only other musical by Larson, whose preeminent work is a little show you may have heard of: “RENT.”
“tick, tick…BOOM!” – the last show of AAC’s 2016-17 season – is a semi-autobiographical work that follows a starving composer torn between staying true to his passion and succumbing to the external presumed pressures of his girlfriend and best friend to give up his bohemian lifestyle on the brink of his 30th birthday.
At its heart, it’s a musical about growing older and taking stock of your own happiness. It’s about not accomplishing all the things you said you’d accomplish by that age and deciding how to continue forward. Kyle Braun stars as Johnathan while Deborah Mae Hill and Michael Detmer round out the rest of this three-person cast. As Hill affirms, this production feels remarkably special because the entire cast has either just turned 30 or is about to turn 30.
“I feel very fulfilled,” Hill says of her recent passing of the milestone. “I don’t feel the angst. There’s uncertainty, but I’m excited about it.”
Director Jordan Price also has a special connection with this musical. “I saw this in New York City on my 20th birthday, 16 years ago, with my best friends from high school,” he relates. It had a profound effect on him, and he told himself one day he’d do this show: “I always thought I’d do it as a performer, but then the opportunity came to direct it and I feel so passionate about the material that it was a no-brainer.”
Price explains that “tick, tick…BOOM!” was actually mostly written before “RENT” and that for anyone who likes a good backstory or may be curious about the genesis of one of the great new American musicals, “This will be a real treat for them.”
The script was restructured by David Auburn – “Proof” playwright – after Larson’s death, so the dialogue holds up strongly against the musical numbers, which means if you’ve stayed away from musicals in the past, this might be the one for you. Price describes the show as a “crisp 90 minutes” and a “very fulfilling dramatic work.”
I ended my visit by watching music director Gayle King lead the cast through a rendition of “No More,” a humorous song about leaving behind the financial struggles that often accompany our 20s, which promises that the show will have a good bit of comedy infused with its other, more serious complexities.
Acting Against Cancer is a local nonprofit theatre company that strives to use the arts to help children touched by cancer. Every year, they put on a full season of shows with high artistic integrity. They also teach children acting classes at no-cost to kids who have been affected by cancer either directly or through a relative. AAC Managing Director Whitten Montgomery says the organization is growing and they look forward to adding two additional classes next year. VT
May 26-June 4
Acting Against Cancer at ArtSpace