Prima’s ‘Tick Tick Boom’ tells the story of Jonathan Larson before his ‘Season of Love’

Mitch Nugent (left), Jessica Dey (middle) and Randy Jeter (right) portrayed the story of musical theater writer Jonathan Larson in the production "Tick Tick Boom" at Prima Theatre. (Photo Courtesy of primatheatre.com)

Josh Rittberg 

Staff Writer

Prima Theatre’s mission to bring fresh theatrical experiences continues with their invigorating production of Jonathan Larson’s “Tick Tick Boom”. Led by the incredibly charismatic Mitch Nugent, this musical follows the autobiographical story of composer Jonathan Larson as he contemplates his career path as a musical theatre writer on the eve of his 30th birthday. Mitch Nugent, along with acting in the role of Jonathan Larson, is also the executive producer and founder of Prima Theatre.

Rounding out the cast is Randy Jeter and Jessica Dey as Jonathan’s best friend Michael and girlfriend Susan respectively. Along with playing the pivotal roles of Michael and Susan, Jeter and Dey also take on the roles of various individuals in Jonathan’s life, who include Jonathan’s father and an actress named Karissa Johnson who is in Jonathan’s sci-fi rock musical “Superbia”.

Nugent impresses with his anxiety-fueled portrayal of Jonathan. Not only does he display fine chemistry with his fellow cast members, but he also reveals great depth in his emotional monologues and in the deeply moving number “Why”, where Jonathan analyzes his life thus far. The character of Jonathan is the anchor of “Tick Tick Boom”, and Nugent’s gripping performance as Jonathan was one that audiences could not get enough of.

Randy Jeter constructs an incredibly sympathetic character as Jonathan’s best friend Michael. Michael is a successful businessman with a life of luxury, which is explored to great comedic effect in the hysterical number “No More”. Jeter and Nugent’s chemistry in the song is truly infectious, and left the audience in stitches.  Along with the role of Michael, Jeter also offers a strong comedic performance as Michael’s one-liner cracking father.

Jessica Dey is a powerhouse as Jonathan’s girlfriend Susan, and the other women who inhabit Jonathan’s world. Susan is a dancer who loves Jonathan, but also wants to settle down with him one day. The ups and downs of their relationship are expressed in the rock fueled “Green Green Dress”, and the toe-tapping number “Therapy”. While Dey is very good as Susan, she truly blows the audience away in her role as the spirited actress Karissa Johnson in the roof-raising number “Come to your senses”. Dey’s powerful vocals and acting in this song truly stopped the show, and left everyone on their feet.

Vanessa Marie Hofer brought extremely fine direction to this rock fueled musical. “Tick Tick Boom” is ninety minutes long with no intermission and is extremely fast paced. Under Hofer’s fluid direction, this musical managed to electrify in numbers which include the energizing opening “30/90”, while still having moments of heartbreaking intimacy.  The musical numbers in the show are all extensions of Jonathan’s thoughts, and with Hofer’s direction the audience was fully immersed in his stressful world.

Kristin Ponz’s choreography was extremely impressive. The production is performed in a Black Box Theatre which accounts for very little room onstage. Nevertheless, Ponz managed to make the most of the space she was given while also creating powerful choreography for the exuberant musical numbers “Sunday” and “Sugar”.

Jonathan Larson’s pounding rock score sounded absolutely incredible as played by the onstage band. The band with fine musical direction by Millersville’s own Adam Rineer played the score with true passion, and filled the theatre with electrifying sounds.

The best theatre production manages to entertain and inspire, and “Tick Tick Boom” does all of that and more. This roof-raising production is not just a victory for Prima, but for the Lancaster theatre scene as well. This powerful production with its message of chasing your dreams grabs audiences by the heart strings, and doesn’t let them go.

Isaac's Now Hiring