'tick, tick ... BOOM!' to be staged by students at Penn College

“tick, tick … BOOM!” – an autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson, the creator of "Rent" – will be performed by Pennsylvania College of Technology students at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7-8 in the Klump Academic Center Auditorium.

Performances are free to the public; discretion is advised due to mature themes and language.

The music and show were developed before "Rent," but the show was put on the back burner as "Rent" was workshopped on its way to becoming a Pulitzer Prize-winning phenomenon. A few years after Larson died in 1996, his estate authorized completion of the show.

"tick, tick … BOOM!" is the autobiographical tale of the week before Jon's (Jonathan's) 30th birthday. He's feeling the pressure – wondering if he's made the right choice in trying to make it as a composer of musicals, wondering if it's time to "face reality" and get a "real"  job, wondering if what his girlfriend wants is what he wants. The opening song, for instance, is called "30/90," meaning he's turning 30 in 1990. In his attempt to create something lasting, something inspiring – to make a contribution to the world – Jon struggles with the choices he's made, much like students in college today. What will they accomplish by the time they're 30?

The show originally was written for just three people: one actor who plays Jon exclusively; another male who primarily plays Michael, Jon's best friend since grade school; and a woman who plays Jon's girlfriend, Susan. Both of those other actors also play various smaller roles, including Jon's agent, Rosa; his parents; the leading actress in Jon's play; and several different diner patrons and office workers.

In the Penn College production, staged in conjunction with the Student Activities Office, the actors playing Jon, Michael and Susan play only those parts; four others play the various smaller roles.

Featured in the all-student cast are Thomas G. Degan, a building construction technology student from Bristol, Conn., who plays Jon. Degan has a background in theater, performing in a number of shows in Connecticut and in Williamsport.

Dylan T. Lackey of Mountville, majoring in heavy construction equipment technology: operator emphasis, portrays Michael; and Susan is played by Justine P. Leaman, a pre-radiography major from Peach Bottom. Supporting actors are Jennifer M. Lauver, a mass media communication major from Richfield, who plays Karessa Johnson, the actress in Jon's musical; Heather C. Barnhart of Chambersburg, a graphic design student who plays Jon's agent, Rosa Stevens; nursing student Robert A. Allison of Williamsport, who plays Jon's father; and Rachel L. Gerstenberg of Freeland, also a nursing student, who plays advertising executive Judy Wright.

The show is directed by Jacquie Engel, a graphic designer and frequent director/music director at the Community Theatre League in downtown Williamsport. She also has considerable experience at the Millbrook Playhouse and with area high school productions, and most recently directed last summer's "High School Musical" collaboration between CTL and the Community Arts Center.

Pennsylvania's premier technical college might be among the last places an audience would expect to find musical theater, but Engel said the show is "hip, fun and thought-provoking."

"These kids know what they're doing," she said. "The harmonies in this show are very difficult, but they handle them with ease. The ensemble as a whole is extremely strong vocally. Add to that an onstage rock band, a set created mostly with exposed scaffolding and lots of energy; the show is perfect for college-aged theatergoers."

"tick, tick … BOOM!" marks a continuing rebirth of theater at Penn College; recent years have seen productions of "Proof," "Steel Magnolias" and "The Vagina Monologues."

For more information about the Student Activities Office at Penn College, call (570) 327-4763 or visit online. For general information about the college, visit online, send e-mail or call toll-free (800) 367-9222.

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Last Updated March 19, 2009