Tick, Tick…BOOM! is Lin Manuel-Miranda’s directorial debut. It’s also Andrew Garfield’s singing debut. And, honestly, both of them have done phenomenal.
Miranda, being both a lover of film and theater, was able to help translate Tick, Tick…BOOM! from stage to screen, with Steven Levenson’s screenplay adapted from Jonathan Larson’s stage musical of the same name.
For those unfamiliar with the musical, Tick, Tick…Boom! was written and performed by Larson in the late 80s, early 90s. He’d perform it as a rock monologue. As the years went on, it was tweaked here and there. Then, after Larson’s sudden and tragic death in 1996, Tick, Tick…Boom! was reconfigured into a three actor musical. It premiered Off-Broadway in 2001 and has had several productions since. This film adaptation of Larson’s musical adds even more to the story, expanding on the cast, and really letting us get to know Larson on an intimate level.
It has been some time since I’ve seen an actor completely transform into the real life person they are playing. The last real good one, in my mind at least, was Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc in The Founder. That is, until now. Andrew Garfield clearly did his research on Jonathan Larson.
Watch Larson’s performance below:
and then Andrew Garfield as Jonathan Larson:
The attention to detail and thought Garfield put into his performance is astonishing. Half way through the film I found that I had to remind myself that I was watching somebody portray Jonathan Larson, not Jonathan Larson himself, which is so wild to me. Honestly, I’m obsessed with Garfield’s performance (both acting and singing) in this and it’s been all I could think about for the last 24 hours.
Lin Manuel-Miranda has been having such a great moment ever since the surge in popularity with his musical Hamilton. And he has not wasted any of his time. Tick, Tick…BOOM! is truly a love letter from Miranda to Larson. Miranda has always been vocal about what an inspiration Larson was to him, as well as the huge impact Larson had on musical theater. Without Larson’s Rent, who’s to say we would have ever been able to get Hamilton or In The Heights or Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson or Spring Awakening?
In relation to that, one of the wonderful things added into this version of Tick, Tick…BOOM! is the inclusion of Stephen Sondheim, masterfully played by Bradley Whitford. Sondheim was a huge support for Larson in the early 90s at the beginning of his career. And, funny enough, Sondheim had been a musical influence to Larson for a while. One of his songs in this very musical “Sunday” is based on Sondheim’s musical style, as well as an homage to Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George. Whitford, with some help from camera angles (very smart, Lin), not only sounds like Sondheim, but he looks like him, too. He had his mannerisms perfected. This was another performance that I completely lost the actor in. Two in one film! That’s crazy.
Speaking of the song “Sunday”, I thought Miranda using this song to showcase Broadway legends and those in the industry who loved Jonathan was a very smart move. Mainly because the song is already kind of dream like, so it works. The “easter eggs” could seem annoying to some, I’m sure. It is a lot of “in your face” kind of stuff. But, as a musical theater loving nerd, it made my heart happy.
This absolute complete love letter of a film is exactly what I wanted it to be. From the cameo’s of songwriters and producers to the cameo’s of big name Broadway legends, this film is Miranda’s love letter to theater. And I have a feeling, that’s exactly how Jonathan Larson would have wanted it.