Raúl Esparza (The Rocky Horror Show) and Amy Spanger (Kiss Me, Kate) will be the songwriter and his girlfriend, respectively, in the Off-Broadway debut of the late Jonathan Larson's reflective one-man show, tick, tick...BOOM!, beginning May 23.
A spokesman for the show confirmed the casting of the Broadway performers. A third actor playing multiple roles has not been cast. Spanger has been playing frisky Lois Lane/Bianca in Kiss Me, Kate since that revival opened in late 1999, and Esparza has been rocking as Riff Raff in The Rocky Horror Show at Circle-in-the-Square Theatre this season.
The planned three-actor autobiographical piece, about a musical theatre songwriter looking at his life choices at age 30, was first performed by Larson under the title Boho Days (billed as a "rock monologue with band") Sept. 6-9, 1990, in a workshop at Second Stage. He revised the developing piece following Second Stage, and the title was changed to tick, tick...BOOM! and presented with Larson as performer in 1991 at the Village Gate (with college pal Victoria Leacock producing), and then later in 1992 and 1993 in the "O Solo Mio" fests at New York Theatre Workshop. The Off-Broadway script is an adaptation by playwright David Auburn (Proof), drawing on Larson's various drafts.
Boho Days was aspiring commercial producer Jeffrey Seller's introduction to Larson. Theatrical booking agent Seller would go on to produce Larson's Rent.
The rock 'n' roll narrative of tick, tick... was written to be performed by one man and a trio of musicians: 12 monologues and 12 songs. There were several versions of the show over the years, producer Robyn Goodman said. Songs included "Theatre Is Dead," "Louder Than Words," "Why" and "Sunday." Amy Asch, an archivist for the Larson papers, told Playbill On-Line Larson had the style of monologuists Eric Bogosian and Spalding Gray in mind when he was creating the unique musical.
Goodman, partnering with Victoria Leacock on the aborning staging, said the show will have 13 songs, two additional actors (playing Jon's girlfriend, his best friend and others) and three musicians, musical directed by Stephen Oremus.
Larson, of course, would become internationally known for his rock musical, Rent, but he did not live to see it blossom: He died of an undiagnosed aortic aneurysm on the dawn of its 1996 Off-Broadway debut. The show moved to Broadway and scooped up Tony Awards and entered theatre history. It celebrates its fifth anniversary April 29.
Scott Schwartz (Jane Eyre, Bat Boy) will direct the legit premiere of tick, tick...BOOM!, which will open at the Jane Street Theatre in Greenwich Village around June 13 or 14, Goodman said. Rehearsals begin April 25.
Leacock and Goodman were both involved in the early workshops of tick, tick...BOOM! at Second Stage and encouraged Larson to continue developing the show. Around the same time, he was writing Rent.
"It's like getting to revisit an old friend," Leacock previously told Playbill On-Line. "It's totally a snapshot of his life and time and my life and time. I'm so psyched it's at the Jane Street Theatre. It's an old funky, arty theatre space with high ceilings; it used to be a seaman's meeting room." Larson, she said, would have loved the 274-seat venue.
The little-known tick, tick...BOOM! is "a precursor to Rent," Goodman said. "The character's name is Jonathan and it's all about him being a composer and changing the face of musical theatre, which is what Jon was. It's a little story about a crisis in his life. It has a little more of musical theatre feel than Rent."
"Victoria and I have a talked about [producing the show before], but the wound has been so fresh that it didn't seem the time to do it," Goodman said. "But it's part of his canon, and there's so little of it. I am so proud to do these songs."
The musical is set in 1990 and "has somewhat of a late '80s feel," musically, Goodman said. She called it a "rock play" that is very character-specific. The message, however, is universal: "The show is about the courage it takes to follow your dream."
The uncapitalized title, tick, tick...BOOM!, was the usage Larson originally attached to the piece, according to the Larson office.