Tick, Tick… Boom! is the directorial debut of Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda. The movie on Netflix is an adaptation of the autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson.
Larson revolutionized theater as the creator of Rent and Tick, Tick… Boom! But, who is Jonathan Larson? What is his art about? What makes him so very special?
A short memoir of Jonathan Larson’s early life
Born in New York in the year 1960, Jonathan David Larson was nothing short of a musical genius. Performing arts appealed to the Jewish boy from a very young age. Subsequently, he gained an interest in music and theater. He traversed the field with great interest right from his childhood. Young Larson sang in his school’s choir, played the trumpet and the tuba, and took formal piano lessons.
Larson’s musical influences were rock icons like Elton John, The Beatles, The Doors, The Who, and Billy Joel, along with classical composers like Stephen Sondheim. After graduating from high school, his college major was acting through a scholarship at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York. It was during this time that he began musical composition.
For nine long years, Jonathan worked as a waiter at a diner on the weekends and worked on composing and writing musicals during the weeks. Throughout his life, Larson struggled with financial stability, along with his roommates.
Despite a life so tragic, Jonathan Larson never compromised on his work. Larson was at a great crossroads as he faced distress from all aspects of life- from romance to career and artistic freedom. The man also lived through the depressing AIDS pandemic that killed almost an entire generation of the LGBTQ+ community. While life certainly wasn’t nice to the composer, he ensured that all hardships he endured only made his works more beautiful.
Despite it not appealing to the audiences of that era, the Jewish man didn’t hesitate to do what resonated with him. He explored the issues like homophobia, addiction, and multiculturalism in Rent and Tick, Tick… Boom!
The poetically tragic death of Jonathan Larson
Most people ask, who is Jonathan Larson? Why is he such a genius when he only composed two musicals? John Legend, Emily Bronte, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Sylvia Plath, John Keats, and Jonathan Larson were some of the best and most influential people in their fields. Despite not producing many works through the years, they share in common a genius that awaits to be recognized; the kind that shines even through the small examples they were able to present.
Another thing in common with all the names mentioned is the fact that they were taken much earlier than they should have been. None of these artists made it past their early 30s. Jonathan Larson died at the age of 35. His demise was on the very day that all of his hard work was being borne into fruition. Larson suffered an aortic dissection on the day Rent was awaiting its first off-Broadway preview performance.
While Larson might not have seen his compositions become the fabled works they are now, he certainly was honored to the best of everyone else’s abilities.
For his work on Rent, Larson was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Original Score; the Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Book of a Musical, Outstanding Music, and Outstanding Lyrics; the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical; the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical in the Off-Broadway category; and Obie Awards for Outstanding Book, Outstanding Lyrics, and Outstanding Music.
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With the release of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tick, Tick… Boom!, cinephiles will catch a glimpse of Larson’s work and see for themselves what makes the man so special.