tick, tick…BOOM! is a bold choice for an inaugural production, but it says a lot about the kind of theatre company Alexandria, VA-based QuackenSteele Theatre Company aspires to be.
tick, tick…BOOM! was originally devised as a solo piece for composer Jonathan Larson, who is most well-known for his Pulitzer and Tony Award winning musical Rent. It was revised after his death by playwright David Auburn for three actors, two men and one woman.
The musical is semi-autobiographic. Rapidly and reluctantly approaching his 30th birthday, Jon isn’t where he had hoped he would be. With a solid, but lately strained, two-year relationship with girlfriend Susan, and an approaching workshop of his edgy musical “Superbia,” everything is up in the air. Should he move to New England and settle down or continue composing in hopes of writing the next great American rock opera and changing the shape of musical theatre?
Director Walter Ware III uses the small space at The Lab at Convergence well. Lou Steele, who co-founded the company with Laura Quackenbush, is outstanding as Jon. Half sarcastic and half endearing, his vocals are controlled, but not too controlled, and his timing is spot-on. “See Her Smile” and “Why,” his ode to the performing arts and composing, are particularly lovely.
David Little comes across as stiff at times as Jon’s friend Michael, but his voice is strong during “Real Life.”
The master and commander of the stage is Madeline Botteri as Susan. The fierce command and strength in her eyes, and her decided and dance-like physical stance make it impossible not to stare. Her plea “Come to Your Senses” is goose-bump inducing (and shows some of Ware’s best staging). I’ve never heard it sung better or seen the character of Susan more sympathetic.
The show is full of great ensemble pieces and duets: “Sunday,” a tribute to Sondheim’s musical Sunday in the Park with George, is hilarious even if you don’t get the main joke. “Therapy,” an argument between Jon and Susan, is relatable and laugh out loud funny. Kelly Crandall d’Amboise’s choreography is fun, humorous, and not too over the top.
Closes June 6, 2014
QuackenSteele Theatre Company
The Lab at Convergence
1801 Quaker Lane
1 hour 30 minutes, no intermission
Wednesday thru Friday
Details and Tickets
Joel DeCandio’s musical direction is superb. The band (comprised of top-notch musicians Stefan Kempski, Brad Emmet, and Raeshwan Greene) plays onstage behind the actors the entire time. Unfortunately, the lack of space between the two groups sometimes creates pitch issues for the singers during the louder, more rock-driven numbers.
With a mission “to bring contemporary, compelling, American theatre to our community that educates, entertains, and inspires audiences by challenging the realms of social abnormalities,” I can’t wait to see what’s next for QuackenSteele. The mostly full house on Friday night laughed, nodded their heads, rocked out, and stayed with the show the entire time.
A company couldn’t hope for a better opening.