All the Easter eggs in Tick, Tick… ​​Boom!

You don’t have to be a theater junkie to enjoy Tic, Tic… Boom!, the film adaptation of composer Jonathan Larson’s musical (theatrically and streaming on Netflix now) about a struggling composer in New York City, but it pays off if you are.

The film, which stars Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Judith Light, Joshua Henry and Mj Rodriguez among others, is full of hidden messages and nods to Larson’s real life and the theatrical world that enchanted him, but would escape him until the success of To rent, which had its first preview performance on Off Broadway the day after her death at age 35.

Tic, Tic … Boom! star Andrew Garfield and director Lin-Manuel Miranda on set at Strand Bookstore in New York City filming the musical.


As production designer Alex DiGerlando explains, many of the film’s secret nods were made on purpose, and more happened by accident. What should the public be aware of? Here, DiGerlando tells CGV.

The real deal
tick, tick… boom lr andrew garfield, director lin manuel miranda and director of photography alice brooks on site in new york on march 3, 2020 in tick, tick… boom macall photo credit polaynetflix © 2021
Garfield, Miranda and cinematographer Alice Brooks on Tick, Tick … Boom! together.

Macall Polay / NETFLIX

Whenever possible, says DiGerlando, director Lin-Manuel Miranda drew inspiration from Larson’s real life for the film, whether filming the exteriors of the building at 508 Greenwich Street in Manhattan, where the composer, or to enhance their sets with some of his real property. . “The exterior of the film is the actual building, with some visual effects to take it back to 1990,” says DiGerlando. “Greenwich Street was a training ground for him, the apartment was a bit crappy, but it was also his home. Inside the apartment there is an old yellow road sign that says Greenwich Street that Larson and his friends stole one night, and someone saved him. His real road sign is in the movie, so it was useful vandalism. “

Copy manager
tick, tickboom lr andrew garfield as jonathan larson in tick, tickboom cr macall polaynetflix © 2021
Garfield on a platter created to resemble the now defunct Moondance Diner in New York City.


When it was not possible or safe to use Larson’s real-life items, DiGerlando and his team did their best to faithfully recreate items that would strengthen Tic, Tic… Boom!authenticity. “When I did Fosse / Verdon, it was important to recreate things because people were familiar with the sets of Cabaret and And all that. It was more of a spiritual decision and a way to allow Andrew Garfield to step into Jonathan Larson’s shoes and step into character by surrounding him with Larson’s affairs, ”he says. “There are a lot of things in the set that actually belonged to Jonathan, or we made replicas because some of them were too valuable to subject to possible wear and tear. Everything you see on set makes sense.

Recreations include the interior of Larson’s old apartment in Greenwich Street (which the team were able to visit to take measurements), a director’s chair that once belonged to the director (they had the original, but it was too fragile to risk using it), Larson’s collection of tapes and his homemade Christmas cards. “He had this tradition of making Christmas cards with potato prints every year,” says DiGerlando. “We saw in the photos that he would display them on his fireplace as a holiday decoration, so we were able to digitize and reproduce them. ”

Legendary monuments
tick, tick… boom andrew garfield as jonathan larson, in tick, tick… boom macall photo credit polaynetflix © 2021
The film shot inside the New York Theater Workshop, where Larson’s To rent debuted on Off Broadway.

Macall Polay / NETFLIX

To accurately represent Larson’s New York City, the production had to move beyond his apartment to include some of his usual haunts. Eagle-eyed viewers will spot places such as the East Village Theater Pillar, the New York Theater Workshop, the former Moondance Restaurant on Sixth Avenue and Canal Street, The Strand Bookstore, and even the Tony Dapolito Entertainment Center. of West Village, which turned out to be somewhat of a fortuitous filming location. “For the [scene featuring the] song “Swimming”, which appeared in some of the early versions of Tic, Tic… Boom! but I don’t believe that in the version for the three-person cast after Jonathan died, the lyrics are about red and green lines and distance marks, ”DiGerlando said. “We looked at tons of recreation centers for the scene, and ended up at the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center, which has indoor and outdoor pools. This outdoor pool has a large Keith Haring mural that you see Jonathan go by atop one of the stages, and this is also the pool that was featured in Kids. It was perfect, it was a good size, it smelled of the era, and it even had red and green stripes. Then I was talking to one of Jonathan’s friends who told me they were going swimming there. Isn’t that the coolest? He actually swam there, but we found our way there by chance, by chance. “

The production had hoped to use some of the East Village locations closely associated with To rent, but it didn’t go as planned. “There was a time when we were going to have scenes set in Tompkins Square Park and Life Café as a nod to To rent“, says DiGerlando,” but after the lockdown we were forced to consolidate and move these scenes to Moondance. “

The actual restaurant where Larson worked is no longer open, not even in New York City, so it was recreated by the film on a soundstage. “It was a beloved mainstay back then, but now it’s long gone – it was bought by a couple in Wyoming who moved it onto a flatbed truck and opened it as a restaurant, but the roof collapsed after a snowstorm, ”DiGerlando said. “But we were able to get the panel measurements from them, and we had a video of Jonathan’s last day before he stepped down, so our clues on how to decorate the interior came from there.”

Magic of the moon dance
tick, tickboom lr robin from jesus as michael, mj rodriguez as carolyn, ben levi ross as freddy as freddy in tick, tickboom cr macall polaynetflix © 2021
Robin de Jesús, Mj Rodriguez and Ben Levi Ross in Tick, Tick … Boom !, which has a mine of surprising cameos from some of Broadway’s biggest stars.


This soundstage dinner wasn’t only meant to be close to the original, but it also had to serve as a home for a very special activity. For one of the movie’s most memorable scenes, when – warning, spoiler ahead – a group of Broadway’s most recognizable artists make appearances during the song “Sunday,” the dinner setting turns into a stage. ; it’s a jaw-dropping feat even if you don’t recognize the group – which includes Andre de Shields, Chita Rivera, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Daphne Rubin Vega, and more – and a total mic drop if you do. (Either way, the movie’s star appearances don’t end there.)


“Sunday” itself is an Easter egg inside Tic, Tic… Boom! the play, ”says DiGerlando. “It’s a tribute to the song of the same name in Sunday at the park with Georges, and of course Stephen Sondheim is a character in Tic, Tic… Boom!. Lin was trying to think of a way to elevate this, and the script depicted clients settling down in a pastiche from that last moment of Sunday at the park, so when we first talked about the restaurant, we tried to figure out how it would work and how you would organize people. Lin said there might be a way to open up the set somehow – and we played around with a few different ideas. We landed on the front wall by lowering ourselves down and becoming a stage, which would allow customers and servers to step out of the limelight and end the number on a high. The numbers in a typical musical are always fantastic moments, but that’s how the creator fantasizes about performing. Lin also had the idea that he wanted to make all of the extras on the stage cameos of the most famous people on Broadway. There was a time when we weren’t sure if we would even be able to do it, but we got it. ”

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Alicia R. Rucker