Director Scott Schwartz has altered the types somewhat in casting the national tour of “Tick, Tick … Boom!,” softening the characters’ contours. The choices work for the show and further enhance the show’s accessibility for subscription audiences that might have found “Rent” a bit edgy.
Jon Weston’s sound design is clear as a bell in Fort Lauderdale’s somewhat large playhouse (all 1,200 seats on one level), giving pulse to the book and lyrics. Anna Louizos’ set design fills the stage nicely and the cast looks comfortable moving around in it, finishing the show’s upgrade from its Off Broadway scale.
The show launched its national tour in Texas in early January, and after Fort Lauderdale will move to the Royal Poinciana Playhouse in Palm Beach in February before heading back north.
The show is a zinger, a wry evening of serio-comic performance art and a fine vocal showcase for a trio of appealing singers. The format, a brisk 95 minutes, is appealing to the younger audiences that Clear Channel and the Broadway Across America subscription series sorely want, and lack. Yet the production’s mellow incarnation won’t frighten away the older audiences the series can’t afford to lose.
Christian Campbell (“Reefer Madness”) is an inherently affable, angst-ridden Jonathan on the eve of a crucial workshop of his rock musical “Superbia.” Wilson Cruz (TV’s “My So-Called Life”) is a gentle and caring best friend as well as a versatile singer. Nicole Ruth Snelson brings multiple vocal and dramatic talents to the show, primarily as Campbell’s girlfriend.
The actors perform with a few props in front of Louizos’ two-story bandstand, faintly evocative of the “Rent” scaffolding, but with a more flavorful visual concept assisted by Howell Binkley’s soulful lighting.
The essence of the show is the flowering lyrical and melodic content of Larson’s songs, which beg and borrow more recognizably from Broadway and pop music’s tenets than the harsher arrangements in “Rent.” These clearly meet Larson’s musical theater criteria for the rock revolution, and get the point across to anyone who might’ve missed it previously.