From a recording of Hamilton dropping on Disney+ to In the Heights hitting the big screen, Lin-Manuel Miranda has been having a moment bringing his onstage work to a broader audience. Now, he’s making his feature-length directorial debut with Netflix’s Tick, Tick… Boom! (out Nov. 19), paying homage to his musical theater roots by adapting Rent creator Jonathan Larson’s autobiographical musical of the same name. Starring Andrew Garfield as Larson, the film follows the legendary composer as he contemplates his career choices before his 30th birthday. Here’s what you should know about the life that inspired the musical, one that was tragically cut short at age 35.
Larson, who became worried about his career while waiting tables in New York City, first performed Tick, Tick . . . Boom! as a solo act in 1990. The musical centers on Jon, or Larson, as he starts to hear a ticking sound just before his 30th birthday. We get a glimpse of Jon’s life, especially his tenuous relationships with his dance teacher girlfriend Susan, who longs for a more stable life, and his childhood friend Michael, who leaves the starving artist lifestyle for a job as a research executive. The piece ends on Jon’s 30th birthday, when Susan leaves him with a thousand pages of manuscript paper, and Jon gets a call from Stephen Sondheim, Larson’s mentor in real life.
Larson was born on Feb. 4, 1960 in White Plains, NY, where he grew up influenced not only by musicals, but also by rock bands such as The Beatles and The Who. After graduating from Adelphi University, Larson pursued a career in the performing arts in New York City. While writing musicals such as Tick, Tick… Boom! and J.P. Morgan Saves the Nation, Larson also contributed songs to Sesame Street and created children’s audiocassettes for Land Before Time and An American Tale. To fund his dreams, Larson waited tables at Manhattan’s Moondance Diner.
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