This weekend, 9Works Theatrical prepares for their last few shows of Jonathan Larson’s autobiographical musical, Tick, Tick… Boom! at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium.
Thespians and musical theater enthusiasts know Larson for his award winning rock musical, Rent—which had first found its way into the hearts of many witnesses 20 years ago when it was staged on Broadway. Still, they’ve yet to discover the story of Larson’s life struggle told through his own music and lyrics.
Robbie highlights in his own words what makes the musical stand out amongst the others they’ve executed. “It’s very different from what we’ve been doing. We have always been giving you proper full sets that are eye candy-ish. This is still eye candy-ish but it’s bare.”
He enumerates the challenges and advantages of bringing a story to life with very little help from traditional elements present in a lavishly designed theater set. Robbie encourages the bare and minimalist set, seeing it as an opportunity to experiment with lighting design. “I didn’t want a set,” he shares. “I wanted it just to be all lights. It should be a very minimal set. Which means I can still play with the lights—that, I (was) excited about. We bring you to all the scenes, […] transport you from the flat to the office to the diner to the theater and all that with just lights.”
The bare nature of the musical is not only seen in it’s scenic design; Tick, Tick… Boom! sets itself apart with the unconventional size of its cast. Comprising of just three actors, 9Works Theatrical’s interpretation of Larson’s musical is represented by Jef Flores, Tanya Manalang, and Ariel Reonal. “I’ve never been in a musical with just 3 people,” says Jef, who plays the main role of Jon in the upcoming musical. “I didn’t know what it was going to feel like being onstage without an army of people backing you up. But these two people are the army—they are the whole army.”
“The story is intimate,” says Tanya. “—you get to zoom in on each character no matter how many roles you’re playing. You’re magnified because there are just three of us.” Musical theater veteran, Ariel shares “Being in the ensemble in a musical, we get to play different characters. But now it’s different. Audiences will really focus on each person and we they play those different characters.”
“The blessing of theater is that you get to play different roles. And age becomes this malleable thing.”
– Jef Flores
Jef is passionate as he narrates how growing up in the US left him burnt out before he rekindled love for the stage in Manila. “I came to the Philippines and saw that music was a different thing here. That everyone had it. I could go into a street corner where nobody is watching and find the best band I’ve ever seen.”
In Jef’s words, “Young kids have a lot to learn from this show because it reflects what they will go through.” Ariel has come close to meeting Larson himself and believes “Jonathan’s message for this show is about life decisions. If you want to achieve something, if you have a dream, try to reach for it. Of course we have to make sacrifices.” “Even if it scares the heck out of you, just go for it.” Tanya adds.
“It’s not just reading notes off a page, you have to have your own take on it musically, and that’s the beauty of musicals.”
– Robbie GUevara
“He has a signature sound, and hopefully that brings you back as well,” says Robbie. He acknowledges familiar elements in Larson’s music including the echoing and repeating lines, timely key changes, harmonies in different textures, and striking metaphors. He hopes to have given justice to Larson’s music, and describes the challenge, “It’s not just reading notes off a page, you have to have your own take on it musically, and that’s the beauty of musicals.”