In “Tick, Tick, …Boom!” the song “Therapy” is performed by Jonathan Larson, played by Andrew Garfield and Karessa played by Vanessa Hudgens. The number intercuts mid-argument between Larson and girlfriend Susan (Alexandra Shipp), as they fight over Jonathan’s reluctance to understand that he has been shutting Susan out of his life as his musical’s workshop gets closer.

Director Lin-Manuel Miranda says the song, a Fosse-style inspired moment, is a charming number that pokes fun at counselor therapy speak, and the best way to tell your partner you’re ticked off at them. Says Miranda, “The tone of that song was on a collision course with where our characters were.”

In an interview with Variety, Miranda and WGA nominated screenwriter Steven Levenson explained they had road-mapped every song in the film with a postcard or note. “We settled on a big swing — this is our cabaret moment. The directive was to intercut from this very cute, funny song to the most knockdown drag-out real shit, they could say to each other at this moment because they’ve been heading towards this for the whole film.”

At one point, Levenson questioned whether the song would even make it into the film. “It feels so totally off and was larger than life in a way that most of the songs are much more grounded.”

But he and Miranda flew into the fun challenge of making it work.

“It felt like it could be a fun way of showing how something so deadly serious can become a musical with a capital M,” Levenson says, and the idea of mixing in the “Cabaret” inspired moments would make for great editing.

That’s where co-editors Andrew Weisblum and Myron Kerstein stepped in. In finding the pacing balance between showing the argument and Karessa and Jonathan singing, Weisblum says he was a little concerned tonally as to how intense the argument would be. He says, “Where would we fall on that side of the line? Would we have a problem with the way he’s talking to her? Would we be upset about their breakup? And would we have a recovery problem from that later on in the movie because they don’t get back together? Those were expectations that needed to be defined in that number.”

There was a good performance balance where the film wasn’t necessarily picking a side in the argument and both were right, except they weren’t on the same path. Weisblum says their first step was to make the dialogue scene work on its own and be truthful to that. Once that was nailed, it was about using the musical element to escalate it to the crescendo, and have them both work in tandem.

Kerstein who worked on “In the Heights,” worked on fine-tuning the scenes until the end, constantly trying to make it feel grounded. Kerstein says it was a collaborative process. “It’s mostly lipsync, so it was trying to make it feel real and feel like it is cabaret. It took work with the music editors and meticulously editing and shifting frames.”

Kerstein says he also had to look at the fight before the song started, and after he grabbed a scene from “30/90” with Larson back on the train. Says Kerstein, “It’s a moment of breath and you hear the ticking again grounded.”

Within the scene, Susan is also asking an important question, one the audience also wants to know, “What if you put all your eggs into one basket and nothing happens?” Miranda says the music editing was an important highlight, particularly at that moment. Every time, there is a cut back to that scene, they didn’t want to lose the momentum of what was happening on stage. “We drop out all the instruments except the percussion so that he really sits with that for a second.”

Miranda highlights how the film’s soundtrack producers Alex Lacamoire and Bill Sherman and music editor Nancy Allen all collaborated to find the musical moment of adding in strings. Additionally, an Easter egg was given to audiences, the cue from “Come to Your Senses.” Miranda says, “It’s playing at that moment, even though we don’t know he hasn’t written “Come to Your Senses,” and we’re preparing the way for that later in the film — it’s their love theme.”

In shooting the number and seeing Hudgens and Garfield perform the theatrical aspect of the song, Miranda says the experience was magic. Not only was it shot at the New York Theatre Workshop — Jonathan’s final creative home, and where “Rent” premiered. It was also October 2020, and the filmmaker was painfully aware that they were the only theater happening in New York at that moment.

Choreographers Ryan Heffington and associate Ryan Spencer came up with incredible choreography. “It complements the music,” Miranda says. “You get the frustration in what they’re singing, but you also get that he’s choreographing right down to Andrew Garfield’s eyeball.”

Levenson says the number was inspired by Bob Fosse, but more “Cabaret” and “All That Jazz” than “Chicago.” He says, “I was thinking of the way Fosse and his editors were so brilliant at juxtaposition and using the musical moments of a film to undercut the sincerity or the earnestness of a scene or to show the dark side of something — the way that music can intercut to comment on what’s happening.” Adds Miranda, “It was a cinematic experience of what Kander and Ebb did so well. “What Fosse found in ‘Cabaret’ to continue to use film to undercut between the cabaret the safe place, and it being on a collision course with the rest of the world and what’s happening in it.”