April 29, 2016, is the 20th anniversary of Rent’s premiere on Broadway. But before Rent, there was tick, tick … Boom!
It's Jonathan Larson's autobiographical rock monologue, a one-man show about a young composer named Jon who is worried that his career will never take off and that he chose the wrong field. It premiered at Second Stage Theatre in 1990, and after Larson's death in 1996, it was adapted into a three-person musical that premiered off-Broadway in 2001.
And in 2014, New York City Center produced a stage reading of tick, tick … Boom! that starred none other than Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda, his Hamilton co-star Leslie Odom Jr. and his In the Heights co-star Karen Olivo. You can see a montage from the production in the clip below, with Miranda singing "Louder than Words" through tears, Odom lending his signature silky voice to "Real Life," and Olivo belting her heart out on "Come to Your Senses."
There’s also footage of Miranda and Olivo rehearsing "Therapy," Jon's passive-aggressive-off with his dancer girlfriend Susan. It's an early version of the rock-inflected patter style Larson would later put to use in Rent's "La Vie Boheme."
The ticking sound of the title in tick, tick … Boom! is the sound of anxiety, Jon announces at the opening of the show. It's the ticking clock carrying Jon the character — and Larson the composer — ever closer to his 30th birthday, the point by which he has always planned to achieve something remarkable.
But by the time tick, tick … Boom! had its first premiere in 1990, Larson had already begun work on Rent, the play that would open to near-universal acclaim and win Larson a posthumous Pulitzer. His remarkable achievement was already well underway.