By: Tara Thompson
Calling all theater kids big and small: This movie is for you! A beautiful portrayal of Jonothan Larson by Andrew Garfield, created and directed by the one and only Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator and director of Hamilton and In the Heights. This movie focuses on young Larson who struggled for 8 years to complete his musical Suburbia. He dedicated his entire life to this musical, poured his heart and soul into it and when it came time to present it to the world it fell short. Bradly Witford did a wonderful job of portraying Stephen Sondheim, one of the biggest influences towards Broadway in history, he wrote and composed Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods based on the book by James Lapine.
After Larson thought all hope was lost, Sonheim left him a voice message of hope, saying how much he supported him in his efforts to write a new genre of musicals, that he could go places; and he did.
Larson’s agent wasn’t as helpful; she tells him something no writer wants to hear. “You start writing the next one. And after you finish that one, you start on the next. And on and on, and that’s what it is to be a writer, honey. You just keep throwing them against the wall and hoping against hope that eventually, something sticks… On the next one, maybe try writing about what you know.” And that’s exactly what he did.
The next one he wrote was tick, tick, BOOM! 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 a part of the performing arts. The story is semi-autobiographical, as seen in the movie, and also deals a lot with the AIDS epidemic happening at the time. 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 premiered Off-Broadway in 2001. 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.
This whole story is a lead up to his creation of RENT that ran on Broadway for 12-years with a total of 5,123 performances, and was the ninth longest-running Broadway show at the time. RENT is now having a 25th anniversary tour this month in San Francisco, one Larson was never able to see on Broadway. He died of a sudden aneurysm the night before the first performance at the age of 35. We can all agree we lost him too soon. Just imagine what he could have done with more time. We are all grateful for the legacy he passed on of one of the best musicals in history.