Christian Campbell, the corrupted youth of Off-Broadway's short-lived Reefer Madness, will tour the country as Jonathan in tick, tick...BOOM!, the three-actor Jonathan Larson musical about a 30-year-old songwriter struggling with personal and artistic issues.
The tour launches at the Majestic Theatre in Dallas Jan. 7-12, 2003. Wilson Cruz, of TV's "My So-Called Life" and the Los Angeles company of Rent, plays best-pal Michael in the intimate, autobiography-laced musical by Larson, the late creator of Rent.
The production is directed by Scott Schwartz, who helmed the 2001 Off-Broadway staging, which had script consultation by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Auburn (Proof), who helped shape various drafts the material by the late composer-lyricist-librettist Larson.
The third of the trio, a woman to play Jonathan's squeeze — also known as the girl in the "Green Green Dress," according to one song — has not been announced.
The show will travel to Ft. Lauderdale, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh and elsewhere. Boyish Campbell is one of the founders of the Blue Sphere Alliance, the resident professional company at Los Angeles' Lexington Theatre (it also has a New York branch). He starred in the 1999 musical, Reefer Madness in L.A. and repeated that award-winning turn Off-Broadway in fall 2001. His other credits include the voice of Max Steel in the WB animated series, "Max Steel," and "The $treet" for Fox. Campbell also starred in the independent film, "Trick." A child actor who trained in theatre, Canadian Campbell is the brother of actress Neve Campbell.
Larson was posthumously awarded the 1996 Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize Rent. In tick, tick...BOOM!, an effort from 1990, Larson wrote of a struggling songwriter who longed to change the course of musical theatre. tick, tick is considered a funky, urban sister show to Rent and this tour has the advantage of the fact that Rent has criss-crossed the nation in recent years.
Actor Cruz is best known for his portrayal of the troubled, introspective teenager Ricky in the critically acclaimed ABC-TV series, "My So-Called Life." In addition, Cruz's television credits include the role of Victor on "Party of Five," and guest appearances on "Ally McBeal," and "ER." Cruz created the role of Angel in the Los Angeles production of Rent.
In the three-actor musical, New Yorker "Jonathan" is tuning 30 and experiencing angst about his girlfriend, his job, his writing, his best friend's success on Madison Avenue and the world around him.
His story is told with 14 songs, 10 characters, three actors and a band. Raul Esparza starred as Jonathan Off Broadway at the Jane Street Theatre, with Amy Spanger (as the girlfriend who wants him to move to the burbs) and Jerry Dixon (as the pal). A cast album features the trio. (Molly Ringwald and Natascia Diaz would later take on the Spanger role of the women in Jonathan's life.)
It was hoped that pop star Joey McIntyre (who took over for Esparza) would tour, but his schedule is complicated by his work on TV's "Boston Public," producer Beth Smith previously told Playbill On Line. Some 20 weeks are lined up for the national tour, Smith said.
The musical ended its Off-Broadway run Jan. 6, 2002, at the Jane Street Theatre, following 24 previews and 215 performances. Producers Victoria Leacock, Robyn Goodman, Dede Harris, Lorie Cowen Levy and Beth Smith brought the intimate and unique show to the Jane Street and will produce the tour, too.
The musical has found success in foreign markets, including a landmark triple production in South Korea where three Korean pop stars are playing the lead role (in the Korean language) in three different productions (to say nothing of a special English language staging there featuring Off-Broadway star McIntyre and his OB colleagues, Natascia Diaz and Jerry Dixon). Larson created the show drawing on elements of his young life and emerging career.
tick, tick...BOOM! first emerged in solo presentations in 1990, with Larson as star (it was titled 30/90, a reference to turning 30 in 1990). It finally got its commercial world premiere June 13, 2001 at the Jane Street Theatre, five years after the unexpected death of 35-year-old Larson, who did indeed make his mark on musical theatre with Rent.
The musical, whose sound will remind a listener of Rent, is a quirky take on Larson's life rather than strict autobiography. Stephen Oremus musical directed.
There were several versions of the show over the years, producer Robyn Goodman said, and the number of songs in each version varied. Musical numbers over the years included "Theatre Is Dead," "Louder Than Words," "Why" and "Sunday," among others. The current Playbill lists 13 songs: "30/90," "Green Green Dress," "Johnny Can't Decide," "Sunday," "No More," "Therapy," "Play Game," "Real Life," "Sugar," "See Her Smile," "Come to Your Senses," "Why" and "Louder Than Words."
Amy Asch, an archivist for the Larson papers and PBOL employee, told PBOL Larson had the style of monologists Eric Bogosian and Spalding Gray in mind when he was creating the unique musical.
— By Kenneth Jones