It was not easy for the enormously talented Meridian High School senior Sam Mostow to shine as the lead in last weekend’s fabulous Meridian student production of Jonathan Larson’s amazing musical “Tick, Tick…BOOM!”
He was, after all, supposedly channeling the real Jonathan Larson, who wrote the game-changing Broadway musical, “Rent”, dying at age 36 on the eve of its off-Broadway premiere, He was, also, having to reckon with the Golden Globe Award-winning Andrew Garfield’s role in the play’s film version that is still streaming all over Netflix.
It was Mr. Mostow, the in-the-flesh local version, who was challenged to come through with his own unique rendering, and he was delightfully successful as the musical’s lead, with he, the rest of the cast, the on-stage band and everyone else involved providing a uniquely memorable and profound experience for the hundreds who attended the brand new high school’s premiere production on its brand new stage last weekend.
A couple points to begin: 1. The theater at the new school facility is indeed first rate, with the stage significantly wider and deeper than at the old now-demolished auditorium, and the lighting far better, and 2. Falls Church in its entirety owes an enormous debt of gratitude to everyone involved in the effort to bring such a tight and effective version of this classic here with its unforgettable message that “love conquers fear” to all striving, underappreciated talents in the rough.
As a long-standing fan of Meridian theater dating back 30 years (29 of them coming under the high school’s old name), this writer notwithstanding his oft-challenging tendency to go overboard with the most recent good thing he’s seen has to rate this show one of a handful of the best he’s ever seen on our local stage. It is right up there with that production of “Les Mis” starring the unforgettable late Samuel Waters in our book.
If you saw this production, then you really don’t need to see the Andrew Garfield movie version on Netflix, but you’d probably want to. The show is acutely autobiographical written by Larson about Larson, the real person, and at the risk of violating “spoiler alert” norms, video clips of him and his best friend, undoubtedly filmed by his loving family or friends, performing in White Plains high school plays accompany the closing credits in the film, giving the viewer an even more sensual connection to Larson, his play and the way in which this Meridian production fully embodies the fabric of the musical.
Larson wrote “Tick, Tick…BOOM” as his first successful play prior to writing “Rent,” which embodied some of its elements and came next.
It was real for Larson who was suffering the angst of turning age 30, and still an unknown, in 1990 as the musical’s backdrop.
All the Meridian students in the play undoubtedly think of age 30 as something far off, not aware of how soon it will break upon them all, with its highly judgmental context (that is, if you’re not incredibly famous by then).
But we love everything about this production, not only Mostow but the two other leaders, Emma Hart and Matthew Bloss-Baum, the three being the only participants not masked during its entirety.
Kudos to instructors Shawn Northrip and Mary Jo West, as director and musician conductor, respectively, as well as Jamie Sample and Janine Baumgardner, and then each and every one of the students involved, among the other leads in the show being Diwata Penaranda, Drew Miller, Gwen Crowder-Smith, Phi Osechger and Ciara Theisz.
Accompanying them was the supporting actor ensemble of Amalia Alexander, Britannia Duerden, Edith Jagerskog, Eudora Neal, Greta Herman, Isabel Pierce, Josh Ferguson, Madeline Aldana, Paxton Hebblethwaite and Sean Lewin. The band included Bobby Puentes, Caswell Loo, Jaden Shin, Kaethen Virmani, Wesley Crawford. Student production leads included Stage Manager Savannah Walker, and costume and prop designers Adin Smith and Lauren Gale Lobaton.
We can hope that by the time of the school’s next production, we’ll be able to see all those smiling faces that were hidden behind masks this time.