One of my favorite musicals ever is "RENT" by Jonathan Larson. This rock adaptation of the Puccini opera "La Boheme" is one of the most creative, touching, and fun works I have ever seen on stage.
Broadway was robbed of so much potential when Larson succumbed to an aortic dissection at age 35 immediately prior to the meteoric success of "RENT".
"Tick, Tick... Boom!" is an earlier and even more autobiographical work by Larson that was produced off-Broadway in 2001, five years after his death.
I had never seen this one, so I was thrilled to find that it was being presented by the Peoria Cabaret Theatre at the Waterhouse.
And what an experience it turned out to be!
While this show is not quite the same caliber of "RENT", it is nevertheless a solid theatrical work with outstanding music, lyrics, and book. It is Jonathan Larson's own story as a struggling artist in New York City trying to break through in musical theater, and facing his dreaded thirtieth birthday.
He has a waning relationship with Susan. She is a dancer who, facing the reality of her limitations, begins to choose other dreams.
The third major character in the play is Jon's roommate Michael. These two have been friends since boyhood. Michael has already abandoned his own theater ambitions for a successful career on Madison Avenue. We soon learn that Michael has recently been diagnosed with AIDS.
There are several standout numbers, but one that seemed a particular audience favorite was "Sunday". This is a tongue-in-cheek homage to Larson's idol Steven Sondheim and a song by the same name from his play "Sunday in the Park With George". However, this "Sunday" is all about Sunday brunch!
Like several other numbers, this one is smart and funny.
In the end, what makes this great piece of theater really shine are the performances.
Kates Sitton does an excellent job as Susan and as Jon's potential new girlfriend, Karessa (the three actors play multiple minor roles).
The two male leads, Anthony Jumaane Hendricks (Michael), and Adam Sitton (Jon) were largely responsible for making "RENT" the standout production of Eastlight Theater's 2009 season (indeed, it was the standout production of the Peoria Area theater season!), Anthony as Collins and Adam as Roger.
Here they once again inhabit their roles and deliver flawless performances, choreography, and vocalizations.
The program informs that Mr. Sitton is a Communications Specialist for State Farm, but I believe this young man could enjoy a self-sustaining career in musical theater if he chose to pursue it.
His performance here is Broadway worthy.