Review Excerpts

Less Rent, more MOR (February 17, 2005)
Christopher Hoile
"The inaugural production of Acting Up Stage Theatre Company is the Canadian premiere of tick, tick...BOOM!, the musical Jonathan Larson wrote before his success with Rent. Larson died in 1996 shortly before his 36th birthday and before Rent opened. tick, tick...BOOM! is no masterpiece, but it is an enjoyable entertainment that anyone interested in the modern American musical will want to check out... The charismatic Armstrong, best known as Blake on Queer As Folk gives a terrific performance as Jonathan, bringing out the many layers of this well-drawn, wittily self-depreciating character... This show makes it claer that in Larson, music theatre lost a composer of major potential."

tick, tick...BOOM! driven by its songs rather than its story (February 19, 2005)
Robert Cushman
"Certain theatres, even some that are strictly for rent, with no overall artistic direction, develop identities. They have good or bad karma. The Poor Alex, cramped and intimate, is one of those with good. I don't recall ever seeing a bad show there. Tick, Tick ... Boom! keeps up the standard....The show is a fascinating fragment, the fascination deriving from its proximity to a much better-known work by the same writer. Jonathan Larson is the lyricist and composer who wrote Rent. He devised this piece, in 1990, while waiting for that break, or for any break. It's autobiographical, and it's all about his fear and frustration at the prospect of turning 30 without having got anywhere. As all the world knows, he died on the very day he seemed meant to get there, the day Rent was due to open. The rest is history that he never got to see. Watching Rent with that in mind is poignant enough. Seeing Larson's own story is doubly or triply so....What makes the show, though, is the songs. The tunes, with a couple of exceptions, are at least as driving, infectious and melodic as anything in Rent, and the lyrics are noticeably better. For one thing, they have humour, something lacking in Rent (except perhaps for Tango: Maureen). For another, there is no portentous recitative. The script may be slight, but it serves to keep the songs from falling over one another. There is a lovely, sexy thing titled Green Green Dress, and another titled Why that Jon sings about himself and Michael, which is poignant, witty and specific: "When I was sixteen/Michael and I/Got parts in West Side/At White Plains High./Three o'clock, went to rehearse/In the gym./Mike played Doc -- who didn't sing --/Fine with him." Note how easily and pointedly the rhymes fall. There aren't many rock scores you can say that about....The songs still sound good, though they sound better on the New York cast CD. Larson at his death was one year younger than George Gershwin when he died. They both brought outside forms, rock and jazz, to Broadway, in bastardized form, of course, but the theatre is always a bastard. I'm not about to compare them in terms of quality, but the quantity bears thinking about. Think of the dozens of shows Gershwin put out in his lifetime, and the one that was all Larson could manage. The system has broken down: That's really what Tick, Tick ... Boom! is about. Anyway, to adapt John O'Hara, Jonathan Larson died on Jan. 25, 1996. I don't see any way of not believing it, but I still feel cheated."

tick, tick...BOOM! (February 11, 2005)
Mark Andrew Lawrence
"Composer Jonathan Larson was on the cusp of major success when he suddenly died hours before his musical RENT gave its first public performance in 1996.  Today that Tony award winning show continues a long and successful Broadway run, while an earlier show of his, tick… tick… BOOM!  is now being given its Toronto premiere. It is the first production of a new company called Acting Up founded by Mitchell Marcus. Marcus perhaps identifies with both Larson and his stage alter ego in the musical. Jonathan is a young man filled with hopes, dreams, passion, drive and ambition...Dean Armstrong has energy to spare in his athletic performance.  His Jonathan is 29 going on 17. His sonorous voice moves from a guttural growl to a rock-like wail without a break. And he effortlessly spits out mouthfuls of words in both dialogue and lyrics... As good as he is in the role, the character is also defined by the people around him and both Michael Dufays and Daphne Moens play a variety of characters but chiefly Jonathan’s best friend, Michael, and girlfriend, Susan... Dufays has such presence that he makes the most out of his few scenes as Michael and shines nicely in several sharply drawn cameos.  He also deserves praise for playing an openly gay character without any of the typical stereotypes. Stereotypes are also avoided by Daphne Moens as Susan.  She sees her character as a driven career-oriented person but one who would be happier in Cape Cod rather than toughing it out in New York City .... Whatever flaws that may exist in the script, director Mario D’Alimonte glosses over them by keeping the cast of three in constant motion all over the postage stamp stage at the Poor Alex.  The pacing of the show never lets up, and even allowing for a few moments of quiet introspection, the piece builds to a satisfying resolution without ever lagging.The design elements, particularly Frances Key’s claustrophobic set and Keith Herbert’s precise lighting all contribute to the flow of the show. Credit too must be given to music director Wayne Gwillim whose four-piece band provides energetic support... All in all an impressive debut for the Acting Up company and in particular for its artistic producer Mitchell Marcus."

tick, tick...BOOM! (February 11, 2005)
Michael Englebert
"Toronto last night was introduced to a new theatre company – Acting Up Stage Theatre Company with a mission to produce intimate musical theatre productions and cultivating a new generation of audiences with contemporary works.  Well the company got off to a great start with Jonathan Larson’s “tick, tick…BOOM”...  It is aimed at a youthful audience that will identify with the angst of turning 30 but the humor and story is one that many can identify with.  I guess you could call it a rock opera but the songs both melodies and lyrics are most enjoyable – certainly not heavy rock and but a glimpse of Larson’s future that was cut short.  Casting was excellent for this production with Dean Armstrong as Jonathan and Michael Dufays as Michael his roommate.  Daphne Moens as Susan the girlfriend although effective in the role did strain our belief that she was a dancer.  Definitely a show you should catch if you want to understand the origins of Rent and experience musical aimed at a younger audience.  It’s a good evening of entertainment at the Poor Alex."

tick, tick...BOOM! (February 2005)
Jeniva Berger
"The brand new Acting Up Stage Theatre Company has had a fortuitous launch with its excellent production of Jonathan Larson's tick, tick...BOOM!... tick, tick...BOOM! is a real winner on the small theatre scene.

tick, tick...BOOM! (February 21, 2005)
Paula Citron
"For those of you who hated Jonathan Larson’s smash hit musical “Rent”, you just may fall in love with his autobiographical, earlier show, “tick, tick…BOOM!” It is clever, witty and engaging – and it’s been given a terrific production by 22-year-old whiz kid producer Mitchell Marcus. Director Mario D’Alimonte infuses the show with tons of energy while keeping things economical, and baby-face musical director Wayne Gwillim keeps his band lively without drowning out the cast. The tick, tick…BOOM! of the title is the sound of time marching for the composer Jon who is about to turn 30, and who is still waiting tables. Talented singer/actor Dean Armstrong is captivating as Larson’s alter-ego. The other two members of the cast are his friend Michael, performed by Michael Dufays, and his girlfriend Susan, played by Daphne Moens. The former is a Madison Ave. success, and the latter wants a family. In other words, Jon is in crisis mode."

tick, tick...BOOM! (February 11, 2005)
Robert Crew
"Dean Armstrong succeeds admirably in conveying Jonathan's youth, anxiety and ambition. Armstrong has onstage charm and charisma"

Getting ticked off (February 17, 2005)
Jonathan Kaplan
"I applaud the premiering Acting Up Stage's intention to mount intimate musical theatre productions and attract new, young audiences."