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The Story of Jonathan Larson, A review of “Tick, Tick… BOOM!” by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Updated: Mar 3

Photo Credits: CBS News

The tell-tale life of Tony winner Jonathon Larson, as told by director Lin-Manuel Miranda was released onto Netflix November 19, 2021. Andrew Garfield portrays Larson perfectly to all extremities, from the personality to the same love of music and work.

Miranda said in an interview with Variety saying “It’s about failure. It’s not the story of the genius who made rent writing ‘Rent’”. Which is true, the time frame in the movie, only being a week, shows the ups and downs of living in New York City as an unaccomplished playwright making a living. They even show that you do get notices about unpaid bills and the consequences that come with it. While Larson was about to start writing the song for his female character in Superbia, his power was shut off.

The film also properly shows what was going on at the time in New York City and everywhere else, the AIDS epidemic. Fredonia senior, Nikki Indelicato said “Once Larson saw how AIDS was affecting the people close to him, I think that is why he wrote “Rent” in the first place, to bring awareness to AIDS.” Larson had very close friends that contracted the unfortunate disease including his best friend Michael. It was hard on Larson to hear that Michael became sick as they have been friends almost their whole life. Miranda shows Larson days before he found out about Michael, sitting on his couch watching a taping of the senate of North Carolina, Jesse Helms, saying “Let me say that if IV drug users and homosexual men would stop their activities today, there would never be another case of AIDS in this country other than the ones already in progress.” This quote sparked Larson to write “The boss is wrong as rain”.

The music is truly the icing on the cake. Jonathon Larson truly is a musical genius. “30/90” and “Therapy” are very fun songs to sing-along to. “30/90” is about Larson turning 30 in 1990 and not having accomplished anything, which ironically is a quick synopsis of the movie. The lyrics ``They're singing ‘Happy Birthday’ you just want to lay down and cry. Not just another birthday, it’s 30/90” is the never ending sadness that you will continue to grow older.

Indelicato said “I also fell in love with the song, “Johnny Can’t Decide”. I just think it was really neat that Jonathon Larson was able to successfully write basically his whole life story all into the musical, with the songs seamlessly through it.”

The movie is about Larson trying to accomplish his very first musical workshop for his musical, Superbia, before he turns 30. With the week leading up to his workshop and his birthday, he has to finish writing a song for his lead female character and talk to his girlfriend, Susan, about moving to the Berkshire’s and leaving his dream behind. During this time in New York City, they are also dealing with friends contracting AIDS. The entire week for him is filled with stress and worries and soon heartbreak. Eventually in the end, he finally gets his epiphany and got his song written the day before his workshop, and was able to have his work played in front of Stephen Sondheim, who wrote the music for Into the Woods.

*This article can originally be found on The Leader, SUNY Fredonia's student-run newspaper.

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