This year we have been blessed with an abundance of movie musicals. While some of them have been polarising (We all know my thoughts on Dear Evan Hansen), in general the quality of them has been very high. While films like Everybody's Talking About Jamie and In The Heights had a lot of hype leading up to them, one musical film has been ticking away waiting for the right time to shine. Well, there's no day but today.
Tick, Tick... Boom! might not be a title you were previously familiar with. Written by Jonathan Larson, who you may be more familiar with for his genius work on Rent, it first appeared off-off-Broadway in 1990 and was rewritten following his tragic death where it debuted off-Broadway in 2001. Since then, it has seen brief revivals as well as a couple of outings in London, though has mostly remained a bit of a hidden gem when compared to Larson's other performed masterpiece.
Directed by Lin Manuel Miranda, the film adaptation is a true love letter to musical theatre. Set in the world of musical theatre, unlike some other titles, it doesn't make any attempt to water down anything for those that may not be as familiar with the ins and outs of the theatre world. Instead, it assumes you know everything there is to know about theatre. That doesn't mean that the material is still incredibly accessible to a mainstream audience - no matter how little you know about theatre, you will still find plenty to enjoy in this. It just means it carries a lot more depth than your average musical adaptation with many moments to satisfy every theatre fan watching.
An autobiographical tale about its tortured writer Jonathan Larson as he works on his musical SUPERBIA, Andrew Garfield has the unenviable task of playing him. Taking on the role of a person who is adored in the industry, especially given the tragedy surrounding him, could have gone badly in the hands of the wrong actor. Thankfully, Andrew understands the task at hand and plays Jonathan with such sincerity and respect. He delivers a masterclass in acting as he taps into Jonathan's personality and becomes him completely. With emotion and sincerity, he truly is phenomenal in this role, with a surprisingly incredible singing voice to boot.
The rest of the cast give equally awe-inspiring performances with highlights including Alexandra Shipp as Larson's girlfriend Susan, Robin de Jesús as Michael and Vanessa Hudgens as Karessa. One of the best things about this movie is how many cameos from theatre icons it packs in. None more so than the jawdropping 'Sunday' sequence which relentlessly pans from one legend to another never letting you up for air. I won't spoil anything by naming who is present but it really is a beautiful section of the movie. Other legendary names are dotted around the rest of the movie... with Lin Manuel Miranda also making an obligatory cameo of course.
The music in this movie is simply stunning. If you are familiar with Rent, you will know what a genius Larson was, but that genius extended past that show as the songs in this testify. Opening number '30/90' is a catchy, clever number full of everything you'd expect from the man while 'Johnny Can't Decide' is another standout. Much is made about Larson's quest to write the missing song for his show, so expectations are set high. When 'Come To Your Senses' finally appears, it doesn't disappoint. The final number 'Louder Than Words' is every bit as emotional and poignant as Rent - made even more so with the narration that follows detailing Larson's tragic death and the legacy he left behind.
Visually, the movie is a feast too. I previously mentioned the 'Sunday' sequence which really is three of the greatest minutes you will witness on a screen. More than just the cameos, the song itself is a tribute to Sunday In The Park With George and is every bit as grand and glorious as you'd expect. 'Boho Days' immerses ourselves into Larson's world and does a fantastic job at painting the picture of his life, while 'Swimming' is the peak creativity of the movie as Jonathan finally figures out his missing song - without spoiling anything, the way this is realised on the screen is breathtaking.
Quite honestly, I can't rave about this movie enough. What makes it so special is how unashamedly real and rooted in musical theatre it is. It isn't trying to dumb anything down or change anything to appeal to what is popular right now. Instead, it is unashamedly, brutally honest. A realistic depiction that feels true to what Larson would have intended and a fitting tribute to that man and his incredible work. Performed by a wonderful cast and beautifully filmed, if we have been spoiled by high quality movie musicals so far this year, Tick, Tick... Boom! is undoubtedly the best. Watching it reminded me just why I love musical theatre so much and how grateful I am that people like Jonathan Larson existed to share their brilliance with the world, even if their time was fleeting.
What a man. What a legacy. What a movie!
Tick, Tick... Boom! is streaming on Netflix now.