Tick, Tick... Boom! (styled as tick, tick... BOOM!) is a musical written by American composer Jonathan Larson. Tick, Tick... Boom! tells the story of an aspiring composer named Jon, who lives in New York City in 1990. Jon is worried he has made the wrong career choice to be part of the performing arts. The story is autobiographical, as stated by Larson's father in the liner notes of the cast recording – Larson had been trying to establish himself in theater since the early 1980s.

Larson began to perform the piece as a solo work in 1990. After his death, in 1996, it was revised and revamped by playwright David Auburn as a three-actor piece and was premiered Off-Broadway in 2001.[1] Since then, the show has had an Off West End production, a West End production, an American national tour, two Off-Broadway revivals, in 2014 and 2016, and numerous local and international productions.

A film adaptation, directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda in his feature-length directorial debut, released on Netflix in 12 november 2021.


The show was first performed Off-off-Broadway in September 1990 by Jonathan Larson in a workshop at the Second Stage Theater under the title Boho Days. Larson revised the developing piece following Second Stage, changing the title to Tick, Tick... Boom!, and presented with him as performer in November 1991 at the Village Gate (with college friend Victoria Leacock producing), and then later in 1992 and 1993 in the "O Solo Mio" fests at New York Theatre Workshop.[2] Larson performed the show as a "rock monologue", a new form of theatre for the time. The performance attracted the attention of a young producer named Jeffrey Seller, who became a fan of Larson's work. In 1995, he saw the New York Theatre Workshop production of Larson's musical Rent and convinced his fellow producers to bring it to Broadway.

After Larson's death in 1996, Leacock asked David Auburn, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Proof, to reconfigure Tick, Tick... Boom!. He restructured the monologue into a three-actor musical,[3] with one actor playing Jon and the other two actors playing Michael and Susan, as well as all the other roles in the show. Also, the script and score were streamlined and edited. This revised version of the piece premiered Off-Broadway at the Jane Street Theater on May 23, 2001. Auburn received credit as "Script Consultant".[1]


Over a persistent ticking sound, Jon introduces himself: "The sound you are hearing is not a technical problem. It is not a musical cue. It is not a joke. It is the sound of one man's mounting anxiety. I... am that man." Jon is an aspiring composer for musical theatre, who lives in SoHo, New York. He is nearing his 30th birthday and worries about his aging and lack of achievement ("30/90"). Michael, a friend of Jon's since childhood, gave up acting to pursue a more lucrative career as a research executive. Susan, Jon's girlfriend, is a dancer who teaches ballet to "wealthy and untalented children".

Susan and Jon discuss the upcoming 30th birthday party that she is throwing for him. She pressures him to play "Happy Birthday to You" to himself on the piano at the party, but he is hesitant because it reminds him of the aging aspect of birthdays. Michael wants to schedule a job interview for Jon with Michael's firm. Again, Jon is hesitant, but agrees to think it over. Later, on the roof of his apartment building, Jon reveals that he is also nervous about an upcoming workshop of his newest musical, SUPERBIA. Susan comes to join him; he comments on her dress and how beautiful it makes her look ("Green Green Dress").

The next morning, Jon is awake early. Susan asks him about the possibility of leaving New York. Susan wants to raise a family and does not view that as compatible with Jon's "starving artist" lifestyle. Jon is torn between following his dream of composing and opting for security and family in a different career. Meanwhile, the other two main characters recap their views on what Jon should do ("Johnny Can’t Decide"). Jon's reverie, however, is cut short; he needs to report to his day job as a waiter in a SoHo diner ("Sunday").

After work, Michael picks Jon up in his brand new BMW to show Jon his new apartment. Michael exults at the thought of a life of luxury ("No More"), and pressures Jon further to consider changing his career path. Frustrated, Jon finally agrees to accompany Michael to work the next day and visit a brainstorming session at his firm. Back at home, Jon phones his parents and then his agent. He plans to spend the remainder of the evening composing, but he is interrupted by a call from Susan, who wants to see him. They argue, albeit in a passive and psychological manner that scarcely seems like an argument at all ("Therapy").

On Monday morning, Jon walks to Michael's office for his brainstorming session. On the way, Jon thinks back to a workshop in which his work was reviewed by a composer "so legendary his name may not be uttered aloud" ("St----- S-------"). He also worries about his musical style and its place on Broadway, but has little time to develop this train of thought before he arrives at Michael's firm. The brainstorming session involves naming a cooking fat substitute through a convoluted “idea-generating" process. Jon sees the futility of the process, and his unwillingness to cooperate gets him removed from the meeting. Later, as Jon drives Michael to the airport for a business trip, they argue about the meeting. Michael tells Jon that the life Susan wants doesn't sound bad, and that he wishes his job could give him the chance to settle down ("Real Life").

After dropping Michael off, Jon goes to a rehearsal for SUPERBIA, but not before stopping to get a snack of Twinkies ("Sugar"). At the market, he spies Karessa Johnson, one of his actors for SUPERBIA. She reveals a similar weakness for Twinkies, and this leads to a sudden friendship between the two. After the rehearsal, Susan sees Jon and Karessa walking together and becomes jealous. She informs Jon that she's gotten a job in Northampton, Massachusetts which may be permanent. Jon and Susan argue about the state of their relationship; in a turnaround from the events leading up to "Therapy", Jon begs Susan to stay and be with him. Despite this, she leaves for home, and Jon thinks about what may have happened to make her behave this way ("See Her Smile").

The next morning, Jon arrives early at the theatre for the workshop of SUPERBIA. Although initially the theatre is empty, soon it is filled with very important people: Jon's family and friends, as well as Broadway producers and artists, including Jon's idol, St----- S-------. Karessa steals the show with her performance of “Come to Your Senses”. The workshop is a success, and Jon gets many congratulations; but there are no offers to produce SUPERBIA on or off Broadway. Jon is no closer to being a professional composer, and so, in his eyes, the workshop has been a failure.

After the workshop, Jon visits Michael and tells him that he is through with music. For the first time, though, Michael tries to persuade him to stick with it. Michael says that while he enjoys how he makes a lot more money now than he did as a starving artist, he finds the job itself to be emotionally banal and unrewarding. The two argue, and Jon yells at Michael for not understanding fear or insecurity. Michael responds by telling Jon that he is HIV-positive. Shocked at this news, Jon leaves quickly.

Distressed and alone, Jon wanders through Central Park until he finds himself in the abandoned theater inside Belvedere Castle. He finds an old rehearsal piano, and begins to play it while collecting his thoughts. Jon ponders on whether the amount of sacrifice required for his career in music is worth it, and whether those telling him to "have it all, play the game" are right ("Why"). Ultimately, he realizes that he will only be happy as a professional composer, no matter what hardships that may bring.

The next morning is Jon's thirtieth birthday party ("30/90 Reprise"). He sees Susan, who is getting ready to leave. She gives him his birthday gift: a thousand sheets of blank manuscript paper. They agree to write to each other, and she leaves. Michael gives him a birthday gift of belts (Michael thinks belts are a sign of luxury). The phone rings, and the caller is Stephen Sondheim. Sondheim leaves Jon his contact information so they can meet and discuss SUPERBIA. Jon realizes that he is surrounded by friends and that his talents are finally being recognized. He says, "the tick tick booms are softer now. I can barely hear them, and I think if I play loud enough I can drown them out completely." Jon sits down at his piano to play "Happy Birthday to You".[4][5]


  • Jonathan (also called: Jon, Johnny)
  • Michael (also plays: Jon's Dad, Executive, Temp, Market research guy, Counter guy, Rosa Stevens)
  • Susan (also plays: Rosa Stevens, Jon's Mom, Secretary, Judy Wright, Karessa Johnson)

Musical numbers[]

  • "30/90" – Jon, Michael, Susan
  • "Green Green Dress" – Jon, Susan
  • "Johnny Can't Decide" – Jon, Susan, Michael
  • "Sunday" – Jon and Diner Patrons
  • "No More" – Michael, Jon
  • "Therapy" – Jon, Susan
  • "Times Square"
  • "Real Life" – Michael and Company
  • "Sugar" – Jon, Karessa, Counter Guy
  • "See Her Smile" – Jon and Company (including a reprise of "Real Life")
  • "Superbia Intro"
  • "Come to Your Senses" – Karessa
  • "Why" – Jon
  • "30/90 Reprise" – Jon
  • "Louder Than Words" – Company


  • "Sunday", Jon's song at the diner, is based on the Act I Finale from the Stephen Sondheim musical Sunday in the Park with George; Larson conceived it as a humorous homage to Sondheim, one of his largest influences.[6]
  • In "Johnny Can't Decide", all the characters are referring to themeselves in third-person, just like George in the song "Lesson #8" from Sunday in the Park with George. In the monologue version of the musical, only Jon did this.
  • Another reference to Sondheim is present in the song "Why". Not only mentioning West Side Story in the lyrics, the song utilizes the same tritone made famous in the West Side Story song "Maria".
  • "Why" contains fragments of several other songs: "Yellow Bird", "Let's Go Fly a Kite" from the film Mary Poppins, "Cool" and "Tonight – Quintet" both from West Side Story, and "Come to Your Senses" from Larson's Superbia.
  • On the cast recording, there is an additional song cut from the final version of the show, "Boho Days". This track is one of the few recordings of Larson's voice publicly available. It was extracted from a demo tape recorded by Larson during the development of Tick, Tick... Boom![7]
  • On the 1989 demo album of Tick, Tick... Boom!, one track is "Why", performed by Larson himself. In this recording, in place of "Come to Your Senses" is a fragment of "LCD Readout", which also comes from Superbia.



Character Off-Broadway Premiere Cast


American National Tour Cast


London Premiere Cast


California Production


Canadian Premiere


London West End Premiere


Encores! Off-Center Revival


Off-Broadway Revival


Feature Film


Jon Raúl Esparza Christian Campbell Neil Patrick Harris Andrew Samonsky Dean Armstrong Paul Keating Lin-Manuel Miranda Nick Blaemire Andrew Garfield
Michael Jerry Dixon Wilson Cruz Tee Jaye Wilson Cruz Michael Dufays Leon Lopez Leslie Odom Jr. George Salazar Robin de Jesus
Susan Amy Spanger Nikki Snelson Cassidy Janson Natascia Diaz Daphne Moens Julie Atherton Karen Olivo Ciara Renée Alexandra Shipp
Karessa - - - - - - - - Vanessa Hudgens
  • 2001 Off-Broadway premiere
The revamped musical premiered off-Broadway at the Jane Street Theater on May 23, 2001, and closed on January 6, 2002. Directed by Scott Schwartz, with choreography by Christopher Gatelli, the cast was Raúl Esparza as Jon, Jerry Dixon as Michael, and Amy Spanger as Susan. Molly Ringwald and Natascia Diaz later replaced Spanger as Susan, and Joey McIntyre replaced Esparza as Jon. The production received seven Drama Desk Award nominations, including Outstanding Musical,[8] and won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical; Esparza won an Obie Award for his performance.[1] The original cast recording was released in 2001 by RCA Victor Broadway.[9]
The off-Broadway production was imported to Seoul, South Korea briefly, with McIntyre, Dixon, and Diaz making up the cast.
  • 2003 American national tour
A touring production of the show was directed by Schwartz, with Christian Campbell as Jon, Nikki Snelson as Susan, and Wilson Cruz as Michael. The tour performed in Dallas, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, East Lansing, Michigan, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Hershey, Pennsylvania, Nashville, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Boston.[10]
  • 2005 London premiere
Tick, Tick... Boom! opened in London at the Menier Chocolate Factory on May 31, 2005, running until August 28, 2005. Again directed by Scott Schwartz, the cast featured Neil Patrick Harris as Jon – later replaced by Christian Campbell – Tee Jaye as Michael, and Cassidy Janson as Susan.[11]
  • 2005–06 California production
A California production ran at the Rubicon Theatre Company in Ventura, California, from November 19, 2005, through December 18, 2005. Scott Schwartz directed, with a cast including Andrew Samonsky as Jon, Wilson Cruz as Michael, and Natascia Diaz as Susan. The production moved to the Coronet Theatre, West Hollywood, California, through July 16, 2006, with Tami Tappan Damiano as Susan.[12]
  • 2005 Canadian premiere
A Toronto production was mounted by Acting Up Stage Theatre Company at the Poor Alex Theatre in 2005. The director was Mario D'Alimonte, and the cast consisted of Dean Armstrong as Jon, Michael Dufays as Michael, and Daphne Moens as Susan.
  • 2009 London West End premiere
Tick, Tick... Boom! had its West End premiere in a limited engagement at the Duchess Theatre from May 13–17, 2009, forming part of the 2009 Notes from New York season. Directed by Hannah Chissick, the cast comprised Paul Keating as Jon, Julie Atherton as Susan, and Leon Lopez as Michael.[13]
  • 2014 Encores! Off-Center revival
New York City Center's Encores! Off-Center series produced a revival of Tick, Tick... Boom! starring Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jon, Karen Olivo as Susan, and Leslie Odom Jr. as Michael. Performances were June 25 through 28, 2014. Oliver Butler directed.[14]
  • 2016 Off-Broadway revival
Tick, Tick... Boom! was revived in October 2016 at the Acorn Theater at Theatre Row, starring Ciara Renée, Nick Blaemire, and George Salazar.[15] Previews began on October 4, the show opened on October 20, and it closed on December 18, 2016. It was directed by Jonathan Silverstein, the Artistic Director of Keen Company.[1] Lilli Cooper took over the role of Susan on November 22, 2016.[16]

Other productions[edit][]

  • 2003–2004 European premiere
The Hungarian production opened on July 23, 2003, on the open-air stage of Pécs, Hungary. It was directed by Tamás Balikó, the director of the National Theatre of Pécs, with musical direction by Zoltán Bókai. The cast was Attila Németh as Jon, Lilla Polyák as Susan, and István Fillár/Tamás Gregorovics as Michael.
The production moved to the National Theatre of Pécs, where it opened on November 4, 2003, with new cast members: Bernadett Tunyogi as Susan and Attila Csengeri as Jon. The production closed on February 26, 2004.
  • 2007 Danish premiere
A Danish production played in 2007, starring Mads Æbeløe Nielsen as Jon, Thomas Bay Pedersen as Michael, and Christina Elisabeth Mørkøre as Susan, and directed by Jens Frausing. A recording of the Danish production was released in 2007.
  • 2008 Mexican premiere
Starring Marco Anthonio as Jon, Natalia Sosa as Susan and Beto Torres as Michael, this production opened at Teatro Rafael Solana on February 20, 2008.
  • 2008 Canadian premiere
Ignition Theatre produced the production in May 2008 at The Matchbox in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. It starred Joel Crichton as Jon, Wilmari Myburgh as Susan, and Curtis Labelle as Michael. The production ran from May 15 to 24.
  • 2009 Westport production
The production at the Westport Country Playhouse in Westport, Connecticut ran from June 23 through July 18. It was directed by Scott Schwartz, who directed the original off-Broadway production, and starred Colin Hanlon as Jon, Wilson Cruz as Michael, and Pearl Sun as Susan.
  • 2009 Manila premiere
A Philippine production ran for three weeks in August 2009 at the Ateneo de Manila University. It was staged by Blue Repertory, the university's college-level musical theater group, under the direction of Bea Garcia.
  • 2010 San Francisco premiere
Theatre Rhinoceros presented the play at the Eureka Theatre from February 9 through 28, 2010.[17]
  • 2010 German premiere
The German premiere of the musical opened on March 11, 2010, in Kerpen near Cologne. It was directed by Barbara Franck and Marco Maciejewski with musical supervision by Philipp Polzin. Jon was played by Oliver Morschel and Daniel Wichmann, Michael by Sascha Odendall and Joshua Vithayathil, and Susan by Marina Schmitz and Michaela Berg. The songs were performed in English, with scenes done in German.
  • 2010 London Fringe production
The Union Theatre performed Tick, Tick... Boom! in April 2010, featuring Leanne Jones, Ashley Campbell, and Adam Rhys Davies. It was directed by Damian Sandys.
  • 2011 Spanish premiers
A Spanish production ran at Teatro Lara, Madrid, from July 14 through 22, 2011, under the direction of Pablo Muñoz-Chápuli and starring Jorge Gonzalo as Jon, David Tortosa as Michael, and Laura Castrillón as Susan.
  • 2011 London revival
Tick, Tick... Boom! opened in London at the Africa Centre on October 14, 2011, directed by Simon Carnell, the cast featured Samuel Haughton as Jon, David Adams as Michael, and Katrina Boyd as Susan.
  • 2012 Argentinian premiere
The 2012 Argentinian production of Tick, Tick... Boom! ran at the Maipo Kabaret Theatre under the direction of Nicolás Roberto and starred Andrés Espinel as Mike, Natalia Cesari as Susan, and Paul Jeannot as Jon.
  • 2014 Dutch premiere
Tresore Productions performed at various theatres in The Netherlands from March 3 – May 3, 2014, under the direction of Koen van Dijk, starring John Vooijs as Jon, Renée van Wegberg as Susan, and Sander van Voorst tot Voorst as Mike.
  • 2018 Czech premiere
The Czech premiere of the musical was performed at Theatre Na prádle Prague under the direction of Martin Vokoun and starred Peter Pecha as Mike, Lucia Jagerčíková as Susan, and Tomáš Vaněk as Jon.
  • 2018-2019 Brazilian premiere
A Portuguese production ran at Teatro FAAP in São Paulo from October 30, 2018, to January 31, 2019. It was directed by Leopoldo Pacheco and Bel Gomes and starred Bruno Narchi as Jon, Thiago Machado as Michael, and Giulia Nadruz as Susan.
  • 2019 Taiwan premiere
A production ran at the New Taipei City Arts Center in October 2019, featuring New York actor Matthew Bauman as Jon, Anthony Neely as Mike, and Ting-Fang Liu as Susan. Produced by the Tainaner Ensemble, the production was directed by New York director Darren Cohen.

Film adaptation[edit][]

Main article: Tick, Tick... Boom! (film)

In July 2018, it was announced that Lin-Manuel Miranda would direct a film adaptation of Tick, Tick... Boom! The film will be produced by Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and Julie Oh[18] and written by Steven Levenson. The film, to be distributed by Netflix, will be Miranda's feature-length directorial debut.[19][20] Miranda expected production to begin in late 2019,[21] but production was delayed until March 3, 2020.[22]