Thursday, May 6, 2021

Talking to the two casts of TICK TICK....BOOM! at Desert Stages Theatre about the show, RENT, and the legacy of Jonathan Larson

Bailey Gorman, Cate Carlino, Hayden Skaggs, Sadie Krotonsky, Christopher Poulios, and Patrick Mullen
photo by Lynzee 4Man


In 1996, composer Jonathan Larson exploded on the musical theatre scene with Rent, which would go on to win the Tony for Best Musical and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. However, since Larson died at 35 from an aortic dissection the night before Rent had its first Off-Broadway performance, he never saw the world wide success of his musical. He also left behind many unfinished songs and musicals.

One of those shows, Tick, Tick, Boom...! depicts the fear of growing older and of being under constant pressure to succeed. It's also Larson's most personal show, one he performed solo in early developmental versions of the show in 1990, and it finally came to life in 2001, more than half a decade after his death, when playwright David Auburn was tasked to reconfigure the solo show into a musical for three actors. Auburn also incorporated pieces into the final version of the musical from another Larson unproduced show, Superbia.
 
Before Rent, Larson was just another frustrated, unsuccessful, anxious artist, working a day job as a waiter but also determined to find a way for the many songs he wrote and the musicals he crafted to find an audience. Tick, Tick, Boom...! is Larson's most autobiographical show, the main character is a songwriter named Jonathan who works in a diner similar to the one Larson worked at. Jon is about to turn 30 and fears that he hasn't accomplished anything while his friend Michael gave up acting and has found success in the business world and Jon's girlfriend Susan is a dancer who teaches ballet to wealthy, but untalented, children. It's a musical about a group of friends and one man's life before success, and a beautiful reminder of what can be accomplished when someone is talented and determined with the dream to succeed. 

Rent opened on Broadway 25 years ago last week and as a way to mark that anniversary, Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre presents Tick, Tick, Boom...! directed by Mark and Lynzee 4Man for two weekends, with two different casts of young performers taking the roles of Jonathan, Michael and Susan.  For the weekend of May 7-9,  Christopher Poulios, Patrick Mullen and Sadie Krotonsky play this trio of friends, and from May 14-16, Hayden Skaggs, Bailey Gorman and Cate Carlino portray Jonathan, Michael and Susan, respectively.

All six sat down to answer some questions about the show, their characters and the significance of Rent to them.

Sadie Krotonsky, Christopher Poulios, and Patrick Mullen
photo by Lynzee 4Man

Christopher Poulios  - Jonathan

Were you a big Rent fan before you auditioned/were cast in this show?

"Honestly, I wasn't the biggest Rent fan. I've seen the movie and I listen to the music, but it was never one of my all time favorite shows."
What can you tell us about the character you play in "Tick...Tick Boom!"?

"I play Jon, a 'promising young' composer living in New York City as he navigates his life the week before he turns 30. At his core he is just a normal guy trying to find success doing what he loves, while also dealing with the stress of multiple major events of his life all happening at once."
How have rehearsals been like, considering there are two different casts for this show?

"The rehearsals have been great! As we were learning the show one cast would go up and learn the material on stage while the other would watch and take notes and then we would switch. It was great getting to see other interpretations of the scenes and songs and getting to bounce ideas off of my double."
What would you say is your favorite scene or song that you perform in the show and why?

"My favorite song in the show would have to be 'No More.' It's so much fun running around the stage and just rocking out to the amazing song. It is also one of the funniest songs in the show, so getting to be a part of it is just awesome."
Is there a moment or a song that is emotionally the hardest to perform

"The hardest part of the show emotionally is definitely my monologue before I sing 'Why.' It is just such a human moment of sadness and despair, and it comes at a point in the show where the stakes are higher than they have ever been, and that just takes the emotion to a whole new level."
This musical was written over 30 years ago. How do you think it is still relevant today?

"I think it is still extremely relevant today. It shows the importance of perseverance and how even when people are telling you that you can't do it, or you think yourself that you can't do it, that you should still keep trying. This lesson is timeless because there will always be doubters, but it's the way you push past them that really defines your strength."
What do you want audiences to take away from seeing Tick...Tick Boom! at Desert Stages?

"What I want audiences to take away from the show is to not give up. Even if it feels as if nothing is going right and you will never find success, keep going. Your big break could be just around the corner, and even if you aren't super successful in a literal manner, as long as you are doing what you love you will always feel successful."

Patrick Mullen - Michael

Were you a big Rent fan before you auditioned/were cast in this show?

"Tough question, I personally despise the song “Seasons of Love.” I've just heard it a hundred too many times. However, I love everything else about Rent! It’s a great musical with great music!"

What can you tell us about the character you play in Tick...Tick Boom!?

"I play Michael in the show. Michael is a very uptight businessman. He’s not a businessman by trade as he 'sold out' his acting career and became one. He’s very prideful and values his friendship with Jon and acts almost brotherly to Jon. Overall he’s a great character with a lot of depth!"
How have rehearsals been like, considering there are two different casts for this show?

"Rehearsals have been very interesting for this show. I was a latecomer to the cast joining about two weeks ago. I’ve had a lot of catching up to do but it’s been helpful with two casts. Since I get to watch a cast half the time, I can take notes and catch up easier!"
What would you say is your favorite scene or song that you perform in the show and why?

"My favorite song that I perform is 'No More.' It is pure Jonathan Larson 'Rent' from Rent style. If you’ve never heard 'Rent' it’s essentially a lament against the world. Michael is moving on up in the world and has an apartment to show it. He and Jon sing this together and it really shows their bond!"
Is there a moment or a song that is emotionally the hardest to perform?

"There is one scene, no spoilers, in which Michael and Jon argue. It’s a wonderfully written scene that could be a whole show within itself. I guarantee you will know which scene I am talking about if you see the show."
This musical was written over 30 years ago. How do you think it is still relevant today?

"I think it’s still relevant today because it’s theme does not directly depend on the time period. This means that the theme of accepting yourself and essentially 'coming of age' is an eternal theme for all generations."
What do you want audiences to take away from seeing Tick...Tick Boom! at Desert Stages?

"I want them to take away that although life may swing the wrong way. It all comes back around."

Sadie Krotonsky  - Susan

Were you a big Rent fan before you auditioned/were cast in this show?

"I have always loved the music in Rent and I definitely love the show!"
What can you tell us about the character you play in Tick...Tick Boom!?

"Susan is Jonathan's girlfriend in the show. She is an independent woman that is driven by what she wants in life."
How have rehearsals been like, considering there are two different casts for this show?

"I think it is really fun having two casts for the show. It is helpful to bounce ideas off of another person."
What would you say is your favorite scene or song that you perform in the show and why?

"I think my favorite song in the song is 'Therapy.' I can't expand much on why without spoiling the show."
Is there a moment or a song that is emotionally the hardest to perform?

"Since I can't spoil anything, I think one of the songs that is emotionally the hardest is 'Come To Your Senses'. In Tick Tick Boom, Jonathan is writing a musical called Superbia. 'Come To Your Senses' is the only song from Superbia the audience ever gets to hear, so I had to create my own background story for it."
This musical was written over 30 years ago. How do you think it is still relevant today?

"The questions of a young adult about to enter their 30s have always remained the same."
What do you want audiences to take away from seeing Tick...Tick Boom! at Desert Stages?

"I want the audience to take away that everyone is on their own journey in life and that you cannot make your decisions based on how you think others may react."

Cate Carlino, Hayden Skaggs and Bailey Gorman
photo by Lynzee 4Man


Hayden Skaggs - Jonathan

Were you a big Rent fan before you auditioned/were cast in this show?

"My love for Rent was actually one of the reasons I decided to audition for this show. I am a huge fan of Jonathan Larson's work, and I was eager to jump at the rare opportunity to perform in one of his musicals."
What can you tell us about the character you play in Tick...Tick Boom!?

"Jon is the central character of Tick...Tick Boom! and is a direct reflection of Jonathan Larson himself. He is one week away from turning thirty, which is terrifying for him since he feels that he has not accomplished anything with his life. He begins to question his career path, and even considers leaving the musical theatre business for good. He is the portrait of a man plagued by self doubt, facing the bottomless pit of uncertainty. The audience knows, however, how the story will end up playing out, as Larson went on to write one of the most popular musicals ever written, as well as earning multiple Tony's and a Pulitzer Prize."
How have rehearsals been like, considering there are two different casts for this show?

"The rehearsal process for this show has actually been very easy, considering there is only six of us. We typically block a scene with one cast as the other cast takes notes. We then switch back and forth until we have the scene/song down completely."
What would you say is your favorite scene or song that you perform in the show and why?

"My personal favorite song in the show is the closing number, called 'Louder Than Words.' It's a beautiful song with a great message, and it's been such a pleasure getting to perform it with Cate and Bailey."
Is there a moment or a song that is emotionally the hardest to perform?

"I would say that the last ten to fifteen minutes of the show are the most challenging for me, as it is when the more emotional scenes kick in. The feelings that I need to portray for those particular scenes are very complicated, but I have had the amazing guidance of Mark and Lynzee to make sure that I get those feelings right."
This musical was written over 30 years ago. How do you think it is still relevant today?

"Tick... Tick Boom! is a show about self-doubt and the fear of failure, which are things that every single person experiences in their life. Despite some of its more dated elements, the emotions and thoughts of the characters, as well as the overall message of the story, still ring true today."
What do you want audiences to take away from seeing Tick...Tick Boom! at Desert Stages?

"I would love for the audience to recognize that there is no age limit to following your dreams. It is a show that begs the audience not to lose sight of their ambition, but also recognizes that it takes hard work and effort, and that it may not happen immediately"

Bailey Gorman - Michael

Were you a big Rent fan before you auditioned/were cast in this show?

"Yes! Rent was one of the first musicals I ever found myself falling in love with, and Jonathan Larson’s story, and tragic passing, made me love the show even more. I’ve seen it done live twice and I’m a huge fan of the film and the show. It is truly magical."
What can you tell us about the character you play in Tick...Tick Boom!?

"Michael is Jon’s life-long best friend and roommate (based on his real life best friend Matthew). He is on the more successful hand, compared to Jon, and has moved away from the 'art lifestyle' in order to pursue a more 'realistic' career as a Market Research Executive, although he is still one of Jon’s biggest supporters and anchors."
How have rehearsals been like, considering there are two different casts for this show?

"Really fun and exciting (and safe, considering there are only 6 of us, 3 in each cast). It’s been really enjoyable watching the other cast learn the show at the same time, and helpful, because we’re able to see the show and how it’s done, but also bounce ideas off of each other, and work as a team. There’s absolutely nothing better!"
What would you say is your favorite scene or song that you perform in the show and why?

"I absolutely love this show, but my favorite scene would have to be the business meeting or 'Sugar'. However, for songs, I LOVE singing 'Johnny Can’t Decide' and 'Louder Than Words.' In my opinion, two perfect pieces of musical theatre, right there."
Is there a moment or a song that is emotionally the hardest to perform

"Oh yes. There is in fact a later scene in the show between Jon and I that hits very close to home. I won’t say what it is, but it’s very emotionally charged."
This musical was written over 30 years ago. How do you think it is still relevant today?

"Oh my gosh. If anything, this show is SO relevant today, in so many ways. This show was written, like Rent, around the time of a devastating global epidemic. Jon wrote both of these musicals, to pay tribute to his life and his friends, some of which were taken by the AIDS epidemic. Right now, we are right near the (hopeful) end of another global pandemic, the coronavirus, and I think the message of this speaks heavily to what we’re going through today, right now. In fact, one of my favorite lyrics is 'Why does it take catastrophe to start a revolution, if we’re so free?' And even just that, that can be taken to heart when thinking about the world’s current climate."
What do you want audiences to take away from seeing Tick...Tick Boom! at Desert Stages?

"I hope audiences take away the pivotal message of the end of the show, 'actions speak louder than words', and that things are possible if you work hard and keep your heart in the right places. I also hope this show sparks conversation, a focus on being better and listening to others, and provides a new outlook on Jon’s beautiful legacy. Thank you, Jonathan Larson!"

Cate Carlino - Susan

Were you a big Rent fan before you auditioned/were cast in this show?

"I surprisingly was not. I am a musical theatre junkie but I never got the hype of Rent, though I do love the music and listen to it every so often."
What can you tell us about the character you play in Tick...Tick Boom!?

"Susan is very driven and wants the best for people. Throughout the show you see her discover that you need to not only care for others but for yourself just as much."
How have rehearsals been like, considering there are two different casts for this show?

"Rehearsals are my favorite part of my day! I love having two casts because there may be some things that are the same and some that are different. Since there are only 3 people per cast, making 6 total it has been so great bonding with them and learning from each other!"
What would you say is your favorite scene or song that you perform in the show and why?

"Honestly all the songs are my favorite, but if I had to choose one it would have to be 'Sugar'. The song is so much fun to perform and I think the audience will also get a kick out of it."
Is there a moment or a song that is emotionally the hardest to perform?

"For me it would have to be 'Come to Your Senses.' There is such a stillness to it that is so powerful, and you are going to have to come see the show to find out more!"
This musical was written over 30 years ago. How do you think it is still relevant today?

"This musical is very relatable to today as well. Being sort of close to the ages of the characters, I can relate to their situations. You can’t snap your fingers and expect something to happen right away. I believe there have to be ups and downs till you reach your goal which is a major plot line in our show."
What do you want audiences to take away from seeing Tick...Tick Boom! at Desert Stages?

"I want the audience to leave with remembering that we all have a different path with different obstacles and it is okay to be on your own path at your own time. "



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