Ensemble Theatre’s performance of Jonathan Larson’s “Tick, Tick… Boom!” hit the stage with three performances this past weekend in Alumnae Hall.
Ensemble’s production began with cast members walking the perimeter of the stage in a pencil-straight line, expressionless and silent. As they took their seats — desk chairs clustered on either side of the stage — they began to chant in unison: “Tick. Tick. Tick.”
Theodore Young ’25 played the show’s lead character Jon. He opened the play with an earnest monologue on fears and dread toward the looming approach of his 30th birthday, inviting audience members directly into his psyche. Young establishes the show’s plot early-on and audience members are thrown into a whirlwind of angst and desperation that follows the story of a promising young playwright who is forced to grapple with whether he really has promise. Intimate and relatable, Ensemble’s “Tick, Tick… Boom!” explores themes of prodigal burnout, fear of failure, hustle culture and the internal ticking of the clocks within every audience member.
Director Nathanael Winoto ’25 said that the show is intimate by nature.
“The fun thing about ‘Tick, Tick… Boom!’ was that it was initially conceived as a one-person review where Jonathan Larson would just play the music on his own,” he said. After Larson’s production of “Rent” found success, “Tick, Tick… Boom!” expanded into a three-person musical with the help of David Auburn before being produced as a film directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Winoto added.
“Tick, Tick… Boom!” is the first show Winoto has directed.
“It’s kind of funny because I’ve always wanted to direct the whole musical,” he said. “I had the idea one day in the shower while listening to a theater playlist.”
While listening to the show’s opening song “30/90,” Winoto “just got obsessed with it and just kept singing it,” he added. “And then it kind of clicked to me what the show is really about.”
Winoto explained that the musical particularly resonated with him as a college student.
“It really is a show about why we do what we do and reckoning with if (Jon) wants to live a life based on the pure love of what he’s doing, or fear of everything around him,” he said. “I felt like it’s such a message that could resonate with a lot of us, especially as college students.”
“Time is ticking by and it’s all about deciding if you want to live your life guided by love or fear, and that’s what we’re doing here,” Winoto added.
For Diana-Abasi (Didi) Archibong ’26, who played Karessa — a woman who worked alongside Jon in the cast of his production — Ensemble’s production was her first performance in a musical at Brown.
“I’ve performed in theater for most of my life, but stepped back by senior year (of high school) to focus on school. Returning to the theater world and debuting as Karessa was a return to family,” Archibong said, adding that the performance was “an opportunity to both perform and expand my family at Brown.”
Archibong noted that the cast was “so supportive and kind toward one another.”
“I felt safe and respected in an environment where I am loved just as I am,” she added.
Winoto commended the cast’s “commitment to the show and each other.”
“We have a really solid cast and everyone came together so well,” he said. “They’re giving a lot of energy and that’s really what I’m looking for with this show.”
Audience member Aidan LeBlanc ’25 told The Herald he enjoyed Ensemble’s rendition of “Tick, Tick… Boom!” for its originality and energy.
“The show’s music was incredible,” he said. “The band and the cast did a great job of bringing this experience to life.”
“The message that I really hope the audience gets out of the show is that it’s far more than a musical theater story,” Winoto said. “It’s real life. Life is driven by fear and love and life is short.”
Sofia Barnett is a University News editor overseeing the faculty and higher education beat. She is a junior from Texas studying history and English nonfiction and enjoys freelancing in her free time.