Jonathan (Nick Blaemire) is a struggling composer who works at a diner and goes home to an apartment with a bathtub in the kitchen. About to turn an elderly 30 (in 1990) without realizing his dreams, he literally hears his life ticking away. Should he, like best friend and former actor Michael (George Salazar), give up his art i.e. sell out for a secure job? (Michael is an executive at a marketing firm, drives a Beamer and is buying his first apartment.) Should he agree to move to Cape Cod with his dancer girlfriend Susan (Ciara Renee), live quietly, and perhaps teach music? The angst-ridden, self-involved, young man is pinning his hopes on an upcoming workshop of his musical Superbia.
Nick Blaemire, who resembles Larson, is sweetly believable, moves and sings well. As his gay BFF, George Salazar doesn’t seem like someone who has deeply dived into the corporate, materialistic world, a directorial decision that might’ve offered contrast. Otherwise, he’s fine, especially morphing into other characters. Ciara Renee has a good pop voice and imbues her role with modest sincerity, but is too polished to seem like she’d prefer a backwoods existence.
Director Jonathan Silverstein uses the stage particularly well. Characterization and chemistry are less well attended.
On the one hand, this is a young, hyper-personal, self indulgent piece with little melody and cliché-ridden lyrics. On the other, it describes circumstances with which it’s easy to empathize, has an appealing lead, and is energetically and imaginatively staged. The audience is filled with appreciative young people and its run has been extended.
Photos by Carol Rosegg
Superbia, the futuristic rock retelling of George Orwell’s 1984 referred to in this musical, never had a full production. Its autobiographical successor, Tick, Tick…BOOM! was said to have been a reaction to that disappointment. Imagined as a solo piece, it was revised by David Auburn to the three-actor format we now see after Larson’s 1996 death. Allusions to the support of Stephen Sondheim are actual. Rent, (co-written by Billy Aaronson), the contemporary take on La Boheme by which most theatergoers know its author, was produced Off Broadway to some acclaim. Larson died the day before its opening. The musical moved to Broadway posthumously garnering its author the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Keen Company presents
Book, Music and Lyrics by Jonathan Larson
David Auburn, Script Consultant
Musical Direction Joey Chancey
Directed by Jonathan Silverstein
The Acorn Theatre
410 West 42nd Street
Through December 18, 2016