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12 Peers Theater's Tick, tick ... BOOM!

Troupe tackles Jonathan Larson's pre-Rent musical



Tick, tick ... BOOM! is an odd choice for 12 Peers Theater, or perhaps for any company this far into the 21st century. Though originally staged in its current form in 2001, Boom is set — and thoroughly rooted — in 1990. The one-act focuses on the angst of late Boomers/early Gen-Xers/Brady Bunch generationers on hitting the Big 3-0 without having achieved one's goal: still living like a kid while friends move into adulthood.

The un-ironic, earnest self-awareness of people who would now be in their 50s seems uncomfortably dated. However, what's most important here is that book, music and lyrics were written by Jonathan Larson, and originally performed by him as an autobiographical one-man show before he hit the big time with his 1996 Pulitzer- and Tony- and Drama Desk Award-winning Rent. Actually, Larson didn't get to enjoy all the fame and (eventually) fortune, as he died of an undiagnosed heart malady shortly before the Broadway opening. (Chalk it up as another fatality due to lack of health insurance and regular preventive care.)

Thus Boom is the real story underlying the La Bohème structure of Rent. And if you like the music of the latter, you'll appreciate Larson's earlier efforts in Boom. OK, '90s Broadway pop (definitely NOT rock) isn't quite my cup of tea. But, let's face it, Rent was and remains a phenomenal success.

Variously titled 30/90 and Boho Days while Larson performed and developed it, Boom reflects the nitty-gritty of the struggling artist — not just the bathtub in the kitchen but also the business/process of grant-seeking, workshopping and trying to get one's agent to pay attention. Playwright David Auburn reshaped Larson's "rock monologue" into a tight three-person play for its 2001 premiere.

Props to 12 Peers for tackling such a demanding show. The production, directed by F.J. Hartland, is somewhat uneven, with company artistic director Vince Ventura giving a yeoman performance in the central role, supported by associate artistic director Sara Fisher and Nathaniel LeDoux as his closest friends and other characters. Music director Ethan LaPlaca leads a solid backup band of G. Ryin Gaines, guitar; Pierce Cook, bass; and Mike Donovan, drums.

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