Pegasus Players. Book, music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson. Dir. Ilesa Duncan. With Michael Ingersoll,
Jess Godwin, Quinton Guyton.
If rant-generation angst martyr Larson were still with us, he’d probably politely ask us to stop performing tick, tick…BOOM!, a three-person musical based on material he composed before penning Rent. Compiled after Larson’s infamous, untimely death from an aortic aneurysm, tick is his autobiographical show about a struggling New York composer terrified of turning 30, and it bursts at the seams with the kind of what’s-gonna-happen-to-me? whininess for which Rent has often been skewered, and which Larson would surely have transcended by now. Yet his singular and infectious pop tunes make it impossible for enterprising musical-theater types to keep their hands off, and here they come with a built-in dramatic factor of crushing force. Seeing Larson as a vital young man terrified of growing old and failing as an artist—knowing that he would die at 35 just before becoming an American sensation—nearly stops the heart.
Pegasus and director Duncan’s production tarts up what’s supposed to be a stripped-down, bare-scaffolding-and-rock-voices affair, and much like Larson’s vision of himself, this tick thinks it rocks when, at best, it pops. But when not trying to convince us of its down-and-out grittiness (cherubic Ingersoll is an excellent Larson, but looks and sings like an Idaho-bred American Idol hopeful), it’s soaring, thanks mostly to muscle-tenor Ingersoll and lanky soprano Godwin as Larson’s frustrated girlfriend. Although some spotty wireless mikes, those Boston Stranglers of musicals, take their toll, Pegasus reminds of what faux-rocker Larson secretly knew: the importance of being earnest.—Christopher Piatt