PRiMA Theatre's production of Tick, Tick . . .Boom opens on March 3, 2017at the Trust Performing Arts Center. I had the opportunity to speak with Vanessa Hofer who is directing the upcoming production of Tick, Tick. . . Boom at PRiMA Theatre. Tick, Tick . . . Boom is an autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson. Larson won the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for his musical Rent. Director, Vanessa Hofer, spoke with me about what audiences can expect from the show, the importance of Larson to the history of musical theatre, and how her experiences working in Chicago influences her as a director.

Kelli Curtin: Could you tell me a little about Tick Tick . . . Boom. What can audiences expect when coming to see this show?

Vanessa Hofer: Tick Tick. . . Boom is an autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson. For those not familiar with Larson he wrote Rent and won both a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize for that show. The story in Tick, Tick . . . Boom is set in the 1990s and revolves around Jon, an aspiring composer and the sacrifices he makes to become known and achieve his dream in theatre.

The cast for the show has three actors. PRiMA’s production has Mitch Nugent (Jonathan), Randy Jeter (Michael), and Jessica Dey (Susan). The show is “PRiMAesque” in that it has a rock score, and even though it is set in the 1990s there are themes that are very relevant and relatable to today. PRiMA is known for their original works and doing contemporary musicals that relate to the modern-day culture with pop-rock beats. When I use the term “PRiMAesque” it refers to the fresh work PRiMA is doing.

Kelli: For those who are not familiar with Tick Tick. . .  Boom, but with Rent, are the two shows comparable?

Vanessa: Rent is more well-known and more iconic than Tick, Tick . . . Boom. Tick, Tick . . . Boom is the story of the events behind what came to be and the story that led to Rent. This show is about fighting for a dream, where Rent is full of grit. However, both Rent and Tick, Tick . . . Boom are authentic shows, and they are shows that are full of passion and relatable.

Tick, Tick, . . .  Boom is a ninety minute show and it is in an intimate black box space at the Trust Performing Arts Center. The show is an intimate look at the characters and the character Jonathan has monologues throughout the show that makes it feel as if he is having personal conversations with the audience throughout the show.

Kelli: Do you have a favorite song in the show?

Vanessa: There are so many to choose because it is such a great show. That being said, I have a few. The first one that comes to mind is “Come to Your Senses.” Another one is the 11 o’clock number performed by the character Jonathan, “Why.” One other one, which I think is relevant and poignant to today’s cultural scene is the number, “Louder Than Words.” This show has such great music that it is hard to pick just one song.

Kelli: Why do you think Jonathan Larson shows are so important to this history of musical theatre?

Vanessa: Larson has an ingenious way in which he takes an idea of how people perceive dreams whether it is their dream or someone else’s dream. In his shows he has the ability to incorporate dialogue depicting how others give advice on what a certain person’s path should be. He does this by portraying everyday moments, which makes these situations relatable. We all can relate to having a dream or goal, and having others tell us how we should become successful. Larson’s shows are important because he has the ability to show the divisiveness within his characters, but in a way that has the audience connect to the characters and the story.

Kelli: I read that you worked in Chicago in the Arts. Could you tell me a bit about how that experience influences you and how you approach directing?

Vanessa: In Chicago, I had the opportunity to work in casting. It was an amazing chance to sit in the room with different directors and in various theatres ranging from large houses such as the Goodman Theatre to smaller theatres in the area. Through this I had the opportunity to see the entire process that went into putting a show together as well as hear the visions that different directors had for each show. This was the best education, being part of the process and seeing how it all unfolds.

Working in Chicago I worked on shows that were gritty and authentic and this is exactly what Tick, Tick … Boom is, it is a show that is genuine, honest and realistic, and those are the type of shows I love to work on especially with PRiMA, whose productions are contemporary shows that people can relate to.  

Kelli: Why in your opinion is live theatre important?

Vanesa: Very simply, it brings people together. Live theatre helps us connect in ways that go beyond our own personal story. We are all in the same room, seeing the same show at the same time and this helps us connect as human beings. In addition, live theatre creates empathy. It garners connections outside of ourselves and puts us in someone else’s shoes. Through this, we learn things about ourselves. The connection that occurs through seeing live theatre is extraordinary.


PRiMA Theatre’s production of Tick, Tick. . . Boom directed by Vanessa Hofer is at the Trust Performing Arts Center March 3 -18, 2017. For more information visit their website at or call the box office at 717-327-5124.

Photos courtesy of PRiMA Theatre

Kelli Curtin is founding editor and writer for In addition, she is a contributor for the online site Kelli is excited to share her passion about theatre and the Arts with her readers. Kelli can be found on TwitterFacebook and on Instagram

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