While the musical Rent was not a great hit when it arrived in Australia in 1998, it had previously taken New York by storm, winning four Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize.

The recent movie of Rent and a number of amateur stage productions in Sydney have renewed interest in the work by Jonathan Larson, the show’s creator who famously died the day before opening night.

But Rent was not the only musical Larson was famous for in New York. In 1990 and on the eve of his 30th birthday, Larson was performing an autobiographical show Tick, Tick, BOOM! about his struggle to create a show that he wanted to be the 1990s answer to Hair -“ which Rent would later be hailed as.

Tick, Tick, BOOM! has since been reworked into a three-person musical and has its Sydney premiere on 30 March at the Fig Tree Theatre at UNSW. As in Rent, homosexual friends and people with AIDS are strong themes in the story of Tick, Tick, BOOM!

Matthew Withers plays the role of Jonathan’s gay best friend Michael, who discovers he is HIV-positive.

I think that is a reflection of what Larson was seeing around him as he was involved with a really creative circle of people at this time of his life, Withers says.

The show is about Jonathan desperately trying to create a musical which was going to blow people away, but my character has moved on from performing and gets a day job so he can put food on his plate -“ the struggle of every actor! Withers laughs.

The 14-song musical also stars Gerry Hawkins as Jonathan and Erica Willmott as his girlfriend, and has been directed by Luke Byrne.

Tick, Tick, BOOM! opens 30 March at the Fig Tree Theatre at UNSW, Kensington. Bookings on 1300 306 776.

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