tick, tick…Boom!, the new Netflix film and directorial debut of Lin-Manuel Miranda, is an adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s small musical-slash-one-man show of the same name. Miranda, of course, is known as the man behind the Broadway success Hamilton and Larson, a prodigy in his own right, is known for writing another Broadway smash hit: Rent. I enjoyed the film, overall: Andrew Garfield embodies Larson perfectly and the ensemble cast does a wonderful job bringing the music (and 1980s bohemian New York) to life.
Unlike Miranda, Larson never saw the success of his Broadway show. He died unexpectedly the night before the first cast reading of an undiagnosed aneurysm at 35. tick, tick…Boom! is a decidedly smaller production than the other work both Miranda and Larson are known for. “tick, tick…Boom!” is an autobiographical show about a character also named Jonathan, who, about to turn thirty, wonders if he’ll ever make it as an artist and musician. The plot follows Jonathan as he tries to stage a complicated and confusing sci-fi musical before entering his new decade, while balancing his work as a waiter at a New York diner. Miranda smartly bounces back and forth between a faux-stage production of the show and scripted interludes that flesh out Larson’s life and process. It’s fast moving, anchored by Larson’s catchy show tunes, while also being intimate and personal, staging one artist’s life against a backdrop of 1980s New York and the AIDS crisis.
Miranda is well documented in his admiration for Larson and for Rent and tick, tick…Boom!is a show that makes sense for Miranda to choose as his directorial debut: it’s a niche Broadway show and Miranda is a product of Broadway. It’s a semi-autobiographic musical and Miranda made a name for himself first with his own semi-autobiographical, In The Heights. It’s a story about art and life, ambition and failure, legacy and death. In other words, it’s what all of Miranda’s work is about.