@ The Black Box Theatre, 430 N. Main St.

Tick, Tick....BOOM!

Book, Music, & Lyrics by Jonathan Larson, Script Consultant David Auburn,

Vocal & Orchestration by Stephen Oremus, Directed by Dale Pawley

  • L TO R: Matthew Esqueda (Michael), Philip Alvarez (Jon) and Alex Wheeler (Susan)
  • L TO R: Matthew Esqueda (Michael), Philip Alvarez (Jon) and Alex Wheeler (Susan)
  • L TO R: Matthew Esqueda (Michael), Philip Alvarez (Jon) and Alex Wheeler (Susan)
  • L TO R: Matthew Esqueda (Michael), Philip Alvarez (Jon) and Alex Wheeler (Susan)
  • (L TO R:) Philip Alvarez (Jon) and Matthew Esqueda (Michael)
  • (L TO R:) Alex Wheeler (Susan, Matthew Esqueda (Michael) and Philip Alvarez (Jon)
  • (L TO R:) Philip Alvarez (Jon) and Matthew Esqueda (Michael)
  • (L TO R:) Matthew Esqueda (Michael), Alex Wheeler (Susan) and Philip Alvarez (Jon)
  • (L TO R:) Philip Alvarez (Jon) and Alex Wheeler (Susan)
  • (L TO R:) Alex Wheeler (Susan, Philip Alvarez (Jon) and Matthew Esqueda (Michael)

May 04-May 20, 2012

FRI MAY 4,11,18| 8:00 PM
SAT MAY 5,12,19 | 8:00 PM
SUN MAY 13,20| 2:30 PM
THU MAY 17 | 7:00 PM


The entertaining musical stars Philip Alvarez, Matthew Esqueda and Alex Wheeler, with music direction by Sharon Nelson and Philip Alvarez and choreography by Janet Mazdra.

When is it time to give up on your dreams? Do you have the courage to pursue those dreams, even when those around you are telling you it's time to settle down and put them aside? These are the questions that faced then-unknown Jonathan Larson as he approached his 30th birthday, and his struggle to find the answers to those questions form the basis for "tick, tick...BOOM!" a rock musical based on his music and life.

Most people are familiar with Larson as the writer and composer of the 1996 rock opera "Rent", a sensation on Broadway that ran for more than ten years and was made into a successful movie in 2005. Tragically, Larson died at age 35, a victim of an aortic dissection caused by undiagnosed Marfan Syndrome, just two days before his greatest success had its opening night.

"tick, tick...BOOM!" began as a one-man cabaret act called "Boho Days", a set of songs connected by Larson's recollections of his "extremely late 20's". He used the performance piece to raise money and start the word-of-mouth going for "Rent", which was in its infancy. Five years after Larson's death, David Auburn and Stephen Oremus were contracted by Larson's family to turn "Boho Days" into a stage musical. The characters of Michael and Susan, Jon's best friend and girlfriend, were added as characters, and the show enjoyed a short but distinguished Off-Broadway run, where it received an Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Musical.

Director Dale Pawley, whose production of "tick, tick...BOOM!" opens on May 4 at the Black Box Theatre, had been a fan of "Rent" for ten years before a friend introduced him to Larson's lesser-known musical. "I'd heard the title, and had always assumed that it was a prequel to 'Rent', or an alternate version of the same story," Pawley says. "I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that it was more of a portrait of the artist as a young man. Many of the same issues and topics are present in this show, but it gives us an insight into the events and people that shaped Larson and led to him writing his magnum opus."

What drew Pawley to the material, however, was the conflict Larson's character faces between his own desires and society's expectations. "At 30, you're expected to be a grown-up," he says. "All the childish dreams that you've clung to are supposed to be tossed aside if you haven't had any success with them, and you're supposed to take on the responsibilities and cares that the world deems appropriate for adulthood."

In the play, Larson challenges those expectations, but at the same time finds himself wondering if his dreams are worth risking two of the most precious relationships he has in the world. The final song of the show hinges on a question: "Cages or wings: which do you prefer?" It's one of many questions Larson asks himself, but it's also the one he asks the audience. "In the end," Pawley says, "everyone in the audience should leave pondering their answer."

Pawley felt it was very important to cast younger actors in the show. "I've seen videos from various performances of the show, and the best were productions involving college-aged actors. There's a fresh perspective, an energy and optimism that you don't often find in actors who have experienced more of life and had the opportunity to become jaded. I've enjoyed the enthusiasm this cast has brought to this project, and even some rough circumstances and unexpected events have cropped up, their commitment and energy has been a real inspiration. I think that enthusiasm and energy is going to inspire our audiences as well."


Book, Music, & Lyrics
Music Direction
Music Direction
Script Consultant
Vocal & Orchestration


'Tick, tick ... BOOM!' ends theater season with a bang - Larson's musical continues to inspire
- By Gerald M. Kane , Las Cruces Bulletin

What a pleasant evening of theater.

The No Strings Theatre Company under the guidance of Ceil and Peter Herman, has wisely chosen to end its 11th season on an upbeat. "Tick, tick ... BOOM!" is a delightful, intimate, often poignant, well-produced musical by Jonathan Larson, the Tony and Pulitzer prize winning composer of "Rent."

This is a show that hugs you all around and will more than likely put a smile on your face. "Tick, tick ... BOOM!" is your basic "feel good" show, with an all too predictable plot, a mellow, soft-rock beat, clever lyrics and a trio of likable characters.

If you're like me, you'll leave the theater feeling warm and fuzzy all over. If you are a Stephen Sondheim lover, you'll think you've gone to Broadway heaven. Sondheim had a profound influence on Larson, and we see flashes from "Company," "Sunday in the Park with George" and "West Side Story" subtly included in the plot, music and lyrics.

"Tick, tick ... BOOM!" contains far less tension, angst and fascination than the real life events of Larson's life. Larson often subsisted on the brink of poverty, with a persistent dream of "making it" as a Broadway composer. His story is softened considerably in its present form.

In its original incarnation, the show was presented by Larson as a "rock monologue" titled "Boho Days" in the clubs of New York City in the years prior to writing "Rent." After Larson's tragic death from an aortic aneurysm about a week before his 36th birthday, and one night before the first preview performance of "Rent," an updated, drug- and sex-filled re-write of Puccini's "La Boheme." "Rent" went on to become a critical and popular success, with productions of the musical cast around the globe and a successful film adaptation as well.

Five years after his death, Larson's parents - who had just moved to Albuquerque at the time of Larson's passing - asked Tony and Pulitzer winning playwright David Auburn ("Proof") and Stephen Oremus, conductor and orchestrator of "The Book of Mormon," "Wicked" and "Avenue Q," to expand the "Boho Days" material into a play. In doing so, two additional characters were added, and more depth, angst and tension were developed.

The cast of the Black Box production, while capable enough, doesn't necessarily coalesce. There is much needed chemistry missing, most especially between the central character, Jon, and his girlfriend Susan, portrayed by Philip Alvarez and Alex Wheeler respectively. Matthew Esqueda is cast as Jon's childhood friend Michael who becomes an advertising executive. Esqueda epitomizes "up tight" in his portrayal. We can almost taste the tension under which he is living and competing. In all, the cast interacts intensely, sincerely and diligently under the capable direction of Dale Pawley.

Peter Herman's set is simple and to the point. The musical direction by Alvarez and Sharon Nelson is excellent.

It should be noted that Alvarez injured his foot a few weeks before the opening of the show. This necessitated a complete restaging of the show with Alvarez performing his role entirely in a swivel chair. So powerful is his performance, and so carefully and naturally do the other cast members assist him that this bump in the directorial road seems most natural. Even knowing about the re-staging before the show, one couldn't help but believe this was the way in which the part was originally written and staged.

I left the opening night performance at the Black Box with a smile on the inside and out, which is far too rare these days. If you are in need of a big hug, I urge you to call and make a reservation to see this very lovely production.

"Tick, tick ... BOOM!" runs through Sunday, May 20, at the Black Box Theatre, 430 N.Main St.

Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 13 and 20. A 7 p.m. performance is scheduled for Thursday, May 17. Tickets are $10 regular admission, $9 for students and seniors over 65 and $7 for all seats at the Thursday performance. For more information, or to make reservations, call 523-1223


No seating plan has been posted.


Our next production is Animal Tales The normal ticketing system will be used but you may only select the number of seats you require and we will assign seats to comply with NM Covid requirements. You may request row 1, 2, 3, or 4 and we will do our best to honor your request. Please see the event pages for details.

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