Tick, Tick… Boom!

Tick, Tick… Boom!, a Netflix movie musical, masterfully upholds the legacy of musical theatre legend Jonathan Larson through the passionate efforts of the cast and crew.


Emma Vernon


Tick, Tick… Boom! The Netflix film that rocked my view of the movie musical adaptation world was released on Nov. 12, 2021. Directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda (known for In the Heights and Hamilton), the movie starred Andrew Garfield as Jonathan Larson and includes many cameos of popular Broadway stars. It follows the autobiographical story of a twenty-nine-year-old starving artist Jonathan Larson while he works his way through pitching his big project, Superbia, before he turns thirty in New York City, in 1990.

Andrew Garfield as Larson is a perfect choice with charismatic charm and similar characteristics. Although, that wasn’t always the case. One trait Garfield lacked was the ability to sing. Over the course of the year or so of production and delays, Garfield took it upon himself to learn to sing. With the help of coaches and rehearsals, he came to the level of singing pictured in this film. I personally enjoy this casting decision. While Andrew Garfield is most known for being Spider-man in The Amazing Spider-man movies and the most recent Spider-man iteration, No Way Home (2021), this was a refreshing view of Garfield. It in turn worked as a reintroduction to this actor that is one of the faces of America’s favorite hero.

If the name Jonathan Larson sounds familiar, it should. On Broadway, Larson is known for writing the outstandingly popular musical Rent. Just before the first public performance of Rent in 1996, Larson died from an aortic aneurysm at only thirty-five years old. Rent shaped the modern Broadway we know today, winning many awards including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Musical. Unfortunately, Larson never got to see it. This film is a tribute to all of Larson’s experiences and contributions.

The musical this movie is an adaptation of was written in 1991 by Larson himself after the finalization of Superbia in 1990. After pitching his story in the form of a workshop, Superbia gained positive feedback but overall it was a flop. No one wanted to produce his sci-fi satire rock musical based on George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Instead of creating or adapting another eccentric story or pushing for Superbia after its flop, Larson used the advice given by his agent, Rosa, to create a production he knew about. That is when he started writing the autobiographical Tick, Tick… BOOM! incorporating stories of his highs and lows of the weeks and days leading up to his workshop. Packed with emotional moments, it includes the existential dread of his youth draining away and the relationship problems between himself, his girlfriend, and his best friend.

The original Tick, Tick… Boom! Went through many changes. This autobiographical rock musical was originally named, “30/90,” then got changed to “Boho Days,” and eventually renamed to “tick, tick… BOOM!” The title “Boho Days” is a riff off of the term “bohemia” or “bohemian,” meaning a person, artist, or writer who acts socially unconventional.

The film itself cuts back and forth between a casual live performance of Tick, Tick… Boom! in front of an audience as Larson recounts his adventures through songs and events in his life. The one factor of a musical that I love the most is the music. The music featured throughout is catchy and memorable. Even days after watching, I found myself humming the songs in the car or while eating lunch. Like most musicals, this soundtrack could be the next set of timeless tunes.

While working on this movie, Miranda’s job was to assemble a number of these songs in a way that created a compelling story. They took out some of the songs from Larson’s piece and replaced them with songs from the original, the off-broadway productions, and/or past drafts Larson had previously written. Nevertheless, Jonathan Larson’s spirit can still be heard in the songs and the story.

After analyzing an old video recording of Larson’s apartment, the set designers recreated settings such as Larson’s room and the Moondance Diner. They even managed to borrow a painting that was painted by a friend of Jon. The crew even added the detail of the bookshelf sagging under the weight of the number of books, records, and other such items piled on.

In addition, this was Lin-Manuel Miranda’s directorial debut. With Jonathan Larson as one of his big inspirations, it isn’t such a far stretch to assume Miranda was compelled to try and create the best rendition of Tick, Tick… Boom! he could. The amount of craftsmanship incorporated into this film is astonishing. You can tell that the crew and cast have passion for what they are doing and what this movie stands for. 

Originally, I was never a hardcore fan of musicals or theater in general. I remember falling in love with Hamilton despite not being able to watch it until years later when it would come out on Disney’s streaming service, Disney+. Even then, once I watched Hamilton, I enjoyed watching it, but I never really explored musical theater outside of that musical; that was until this film. After experiencing this musical, I wanted to explore more of Larson’s work. I had not previously seen Rent, so I decided to watch that. 

This review does not do justice to the amazing musical movie that is Tick, Tick… Boom! If all that sounds interesting, the film can be found on Netflix. It has become one of my favorite films I have ever seen. I rate it a 4.5 out of 5.