“Tick, Tick…Boom!”–Larson’s Legacy

Just this month, the movie “Tick, Tick… Boom!” has won two Golden Globes. The movie, directed by Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda, won best musical or comedy motion picture. Lead Andrew Garfield also won his first Golden Globe as best actor in a musical or comedy film. The film was originally for the stage as a solo musical written and performed by composer Jonathan Larson in 1990. In 1996 it was revamped and premiered off-Broadway in 2001. The musical features the story of a struggling composer, Jon (Andrew Garfield), and his crisis over lack of achievement as his 30th birthday approaches, as well as difficulties with his best friend and girlfriend. 

The music is upbeat and fun, but the story behind the musical is quite sad. Jonathan Larson, the original composer in 1990, had based the musical off of his own life and feelings. He adored music-making, despite the financial instability it caused. Larson went on to create another musical, “Rent,” which turned into one of the longest running shows on Broadway after 12 years. However, there’s always a catch. Larson did not live to see his dreams come true and the morning of the Off-Broadway premier, he passed away at 35 due to aortic dissection.

The process for the 2021 film was a long one, Garfield even taught himself piano and worked with many vocal coaches to learn how to sing for the movie.  Garfield explains the long-winded story on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where Lin-Manuel Miranda ends up learning that Garfield can sing, when he cannot. Garfield ends up asking Miranda “When do you want to shoot?” and Miranda responds “I don’t know probably not, like, not within the year,” to which Garfield says “Yeah, I can sing,”  

Garfield’s vocals live up to every expectation for the film, and his mannerisms match those of Larsons performance in 1996. Opening song “30/90” is at number 12 on Spotify’s Viral 50, even months after the movie’s release on November 12th, 2021. Fan favorite “Therapy” has been popular on TikTok as people learn the choreography to perform. All this attention is well deserved, Garfield put his heart into the performance from the small quirks Larson does to his vocals. 

A common complaint is that Lin Manuel Miranda did not add songs “Green Green Dress”  and “Sugar” from the original musical. However, both songs are briefly featured.

Miranda choreographed and filmed “Green Green Dress” before cutting it. “No story happens during [that scene],” he told Collider. It still can be heard in the background on a radio during the scene where the song would have gone and is sung by Garfield in the end credits. “Sugar” also receives a moment when Jon is asked if he’s been working on his musical and Jon says he wrote a song about sugar instead and sings a few bars. 

Two songs that were cut from the original made a comeback, “Play Game” and “Boho Days”  They both appeared in early drafts of the musical when it was meant to be a solo rock monologue, but the songs were cut from the 2001 Off-Broadway production. This has been received as a positive addition to the movie, as “Boho Days” became a favorite of many and became a trend on TikTok. 

Love should also go to Vanessa Hudgens, playing Karessa Johnson, Jon’s co-star in his musical. Hudgens did a wonderful job as Johnson, enhancing the song “Therapy” even farther as a fan favorite. Robin De Jesús, portraying Jon’s best friend Michael, did a great job at expressing the devastating emotions his character undergoes throughout the story. He also serves as recognition to “Rent”, as he was in the show on Broadway in 2005. 

The film includes many nods to Larsons other projects and cameo’s from Broadway actors and composers. It’s full of references and jokes about Larsons life. The movie has been received well by critics and musical theater kids alike. Everyone put their all into this film in order to make it the best possible, and it’s something Larson would be proud of as his legacy.