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Song for a day

New musical tick, tick … BOOM! remembers a groundbreaking Broadway composer


Song for a day
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Jonathan Larson died in 1996 at age 35 on the eve of the first public performance of his Broadway smash Rent. Before Rent, Larson won modest acclaim for tick, tick … BOOM!, a genre-busting “rock monologue.” Lin-Manuel Miranda has adapted that musical into a new Netflix film by the same name, dramatizing a key week in Larson’s life. The film (rated PG-13 for language and a sex scene) is a smartly crafted story about an artist’s struggle to find meaning and acceptance. Miranda and Andrew Garfield, who plays Larson, seem destined for Oscar nods.

Larson is frustrated that at age 29, Broadway producers haven’t shown interest in his songwriting. Still, he persists. When he’s not waiting tables at a Manhattan diner, he’s revising Superbia, a musical he began composing years earlier. An imminent deadline looms: He must complete the musical within a week, when some producers will join a Superbia workshop. Larson’s obsession with success hurts his relationships with his girlfriend (Alexandra Shipp) and gay best friend.

The film alternates between a real-time narrative of that hectic week and a staged performance of tick, tick …BOOM!, which itself chronicles that week’s events. It’s an ingenious musical-­within-a-musical, elevated by Garfield’s moving performance. But the celebration is bittersweet. Larson seems not to have realized that his life, like each of ours, is a song in a divine musical. We won’t find fulfillment until we get in tune with its Composer.

Bob Brown

Bob is a movie reviewer for WORLD. He is a World Journalism Institute graduate and works as a math professor. Bob resides with his wife, Lisa, and five kids in Bel Air, Md.



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