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Theatre / tick, tick... BOOM!

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Fear or love, baby, don't say the answer
Actions speak louder than words
— "Louder Than Words"

tick, tick... BOOM! is a musical with music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson (RENT). The work is partly autobiographical, although it wasn't produced in its finished form until 2001, five years after Larson's death. The show is also partially a tribute to Larson's idol, Stephen Sondheim, with its plot bearing similarities to Company. One song, "Sunday", is an update of a song of the same name from Sunday in the Park with George.

The show's main character is Jon, a struggling composer about to celebrate his 30th birthday. His best friend Michael, a successful businessman, encourages Jon to pursue a more stable, better-paying career. Jon's girlfriend Susan, a dancer working as a ballet instructor, is ready to settle down and start a family. In the middle of trying to get his own musical produced, Jon has to decide what he really wants to do with his life.


A film adaptation, directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda and starring Andrew Garfield as Jon, was released on Netflix November 19, 2021.

tick, tick... BOOM! provides examples of:

  • Bath of Poverty: The song "No More" has Jon and Michael listing things Michael doesn't have to put up with now that he's no longer poor and has moved into a nicer apartment:
    No more taking a shower in the kitchen
    While your roommate's eating breakfast
    And you're getting water on his cornflakes!
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Susan and Jon's argument, about whether or not they should move to the Berkshires for her new job. On the one hand, Susan tells Jon that many dancers don't get a second chance after suffering a bad injury. She's been having to work as a secretary for long hours just to make rent, and they barely have creative space. The studio in question is willing to give Jon all the space that he needs to compose. Jon, on the other hand, has a legitimate point that his big break could potentially come up, and he needs to put all of his efforts into it for this week. Having to decide whether or not to move in the middle of potential investors seeing Superbia is factoring in a lot of uncertainties.
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  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: When he finds out that Michael has HIV, Jon asks why Michael didn't tell him. Michael tells him, in a low tone, that he did try to break the news earlier that week but Jon has been ignoring him owing to his focus on the workshop. This spurs Jon's Jerkass Realization of how oblivious that he has been.
  • Homage: The show is a giant one to Stephen Sondheim, mostly obviously in "Sunday".
  • "I Am" Song / "I Want" Song: "Why", which comes very late in the story.
  • "I Want" Song: "Johnny Can't Decide"
  • Life Embellished: According to Larson's father, the play was essentially a semi-autobiography about Larson's real-life struggles to make it as a composer.
  • Milestone Birthday Angst: Jon is anxious about turning 30, evidenced in the song "30/90", because he does not feel like he has made it as a composer yet. The show ends on him playing "Happy Birthday" on the piano, showing he's finally accepted it.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Jonathan Larson wrote a musical about a composer named Jon who's writing a musical.
  • Ode to Food: "Sugar" is a song that sounds like it's about picking up a prostitute, but halfway through, it turns out to be about buying Twinkies.
  • Reclusive Artist: Jon, in-universe.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Self-Deprecation: Jonathan Larson's Jon pre-Character Development is a bit obsessive, self-centered, and oblivious to others' problems. Susan calls him out for this, saying that all he can think about is his own work and not about what other people like her may want. He grows out of it by the end of the show, thanking all of his friends.
  • Show Within a Show: Jon's musical, SUPERBIA.
  • Wham Line: "I know I'm sick, Jon, and I'm not going to get any better."