In a beautifully intimate and vulnerable display that strikes a chord with the creative soul, The 5 & Dime’s rendition of Tick, Tick… Boom! at The Florida Ballet weaves ambition, ingenuity and a hint of despair into a rich tapestry of performance. From Jonathan Larson, the acclaimed composer and playwright best known for his groundbreaking musical Rent, this semi-autobiographical work springs to life with vibrant performances and inspired direction. The abstract set is reminiscent of a 90s Bohemian New York apartment, complete with an exposed brick wall cluttered with a disarray of sheet music, tossed carpets strewn across the floor, and a rustic table laden with more loose leaf sheet music. Further details, such as a corded phone hanging on the wall, a piano keyboard in the center, an upright piano tucked in the corner, and an apparently broken keyboard propped against the back wall, all contribute to crafting an immersive atmosphere, immediately establishing the tone for the innovative experience that follows.
The musical opens with Bradley Akers as Jon, on the brink of turning 30, working a day job at a diner and feeling the pressure to make it big before his next birthday. He’s grappling with his creative passion, the commercial expectations of the entertainment industry, and his own internal “tick, tick” of time running out.
Jon’s best friend, Michael (Zach Rivera), has given up acting for a lucrative career in marketing, and Jon’s girlfriend, Susan, (Shauna Clark) is a dancer who’s considering leaving the city. Both characters serve as reflections of the alternative paths Jon could take, heightening his anxiety and self-doubt.
Throughout the musical, Jon reflects on his life’s choices, his relationships, and his unfulfilled dreams.
Bradley’s performance elevates the role, capturing Jon’s fears and hopes with a realism that transcends the stage, making the character’s emotions palpable and genuine. His connection with Jonathan Larson’s character is so profound that it felt like listening to Larson himself sharing an personal anecdote at Untold Stories. The connection is so deep, it’s like being in a friend’s living room, absorbed in a story, rather than sitting in a theater watching a play.
In roles demanding constant character-switching, Shauna and Zach astonish with their seamless transformations. Shauna’s very posture narrates a tale, and her transitions, most notably from Susan to Karessa Johnson, are breathtaking and riveting, a display worthy of master classes.
Zach, in his portrayal of Michael, brings an embodiment of warmth, encouragement, and sometimes irksome mentorship. His performance not only drew us in but fostered a deep affection for his character. The emotional arc of his story is profoundly moving and heart-wrenching.
The small size of the space, rather than diminishing the experience, elevates it. It feels like sitting at the chef’s table in a Michelin star restaurant, creating an atmosphere of intimacy and vulnerability without a hint of awkwardness. Audience interactions are delightful, hilarious and feel oddly real and natural, creating a unique sense of realism and warmth uncommon in live theatrical experiences. Even smaller moments are riveting, like Bradley’s nuanced reactions during Shauna’s solo as Karessa, eliciting the same mixture of nervousness, excitement, and joy that a groom exudes as his bride approaches the altar.
The balance between emotion and melody is perfect, telling the story through music without losing the essence of the narrative. Bradley, Shauna and Zach’s expert use of vocal dynamics within the intimate surroundings created an emotional rollercoaster, drawing the audience into their characters’ intense battles with life-altering decisions and dilemmas.
With impeccable performances, innovative staging, and a masterful balance between storytelling and music, Tick, Tick… BOOM! by The 5 & Dime at The Florida Ballet is a must-see for anyone seeking a theatre experience that is both intimate and powerful. The production defies common theatrical reservations, turning potential drawbacks into strengths, and leaves the audience with a renewed appreciation for the magic of live performance.
If you already have plans tonight, cancel them so you can go see “Tick, Tick, Boom!” before it’s gone.
Tick, Tick… Boom! final performance is tonight, Saturday, August 19th at The Florida Ballet.
For more information, full cast and crew credits, and links to tickets, visit the Tick, Tick… Boom! page here on JaxPlays.