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tick, tick... BOOM!

Musical by Jonathan Larson

In German and English language

Jon is a promising musical composer and lyricist, works as a waiter in New York and has been dreaming of a career on Broadway for years. Despite intensive work and the clear vision of reforming musical theater and bringing it up to date, the big breakthrough is a long time coming. Shortly before his 30th birthday restlessness begins to take hold of him. He fundamentally questions his life choices and feels pressure from all sides: his girlfriend Susan longs for a tranquil family life , his childhood friend Michael wants him to get an office job with a secure income … panic.

tick, tick... BOOM! is semi-autobiographical, existential and innovative. Originally performed on stage from 1990 as a one-man show by Larson himself, it was posthumously re-adapted as a three-person play in 2001, and gained wider notoriety no later than 2021 through its award-winning Netflix extension into a feature film. Larson himself was a door-opener and pioneer for a new kind of musical: close to the issues of young people, close to the music of the time. With a pointed staging of the version for three actors, the Volksoper is also breaking new ground and proving once again that it is a creative place with its finger on the pulse.

New York in January 1990. One week before his thirtieth birthday, Jon struggles with the expectations of being an adult and that his career as a musical composer is not gaining momentum. Plus, he keeps hearing those ticks and booms ... like a bomb. In their apartment, Michael, his best friend and roommate, formerly an actor and now a big shot in market research, tries to get Jon to take a job in his company. On the roof of the apartment building, Jon indulges in his stirring thoughts. His girlfriend Susan, a dancer, manages to distract Jon for a moment. The next morning, she suggests they move away to the country for a quieter life.

Jon spends Sunday morning at the diner where he has been working for several years to keep his head above water financially. After his shift, he visits Michael's new luxury apartment. Back in Soho, Jon gets caught up in his fears and hopes again; a call from his agent Rosa Stevens adds to this. Susan calls and wants to spend the evening with Jon … a couple’s argument breaks out.

On Monday morning, Jon shows up at Michael's company only to find himself in his own personal hell. Michael can't cope with Jon's depreciating attitude. Jon heads off to a rehearsal of Superbia. To satisfy his cravings, he stocks up on sweets at a kiosk and meets one of his singers, Karessa. Her advances do not go unnoticed by Susan. She makes her decision: she no longer wants to make her dreams dependent on Jon and his professional future and accepts a job offer outside New York. Jon realizes that he has lost her.

The presentation of the musical goes well and Karessa delivers a stunning solo. Now Jon waits in vain for feedback from potential producers. A call from Rosa finally shatters his dream. In despair he wants to give up everything – until Michael unexpectedly confronts him with the diagnosis of AIDS. After a moment of shock Jon comes to his senses.

Saturday evening, birthday party in Soho. Jon realizes that turning thirty isn't so bad after all. A call from his idol, Stephen Sondheim, awakens new hope in him. The ticks and booms get quieter.

Happy Birthday!


Stage direction
Frédéric Buhr
Bühne & Kostüm
Agnes Hasun
Martin Lukesch
Musical direction
Christian Frank
Jakob Semotan
Sophia Gorgi
Oliver Liebl

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Press comments

‚tick, tick... BOOM!‘ by Jonathan Larson brilliantly rocks the Wiener Volksoper back to the 90s.
Kurier 30. October 2023
Semotan does a great job, the Viennese actor energetically moves around, beside, and atop a multifunctional hot dog stand (Stage: Agnes Hasun), supported and pitied by Susan (Juliette Khalil) and Michael (Oliver Liebl).
Der Standard 30. October 2023
Director Frederic Buhr has staged it extremely precisely; the performers are world-class. Jakob Semotan as the fabulous John, Juliette Khalil as the enchanting Susan, and Oliver Liebl as Michael give their all. Standing ovations
Kurier 30. October 2023
This production has humor, drive, and tragedy. Above all, it features many excellent songs (...) and a strong retro flair. It's fantastic how Christian Frank (conductor), Felix Reischl, Marlene Lacherstorfer, and Mario Stübler, from the stage, bring it all to life with guitar, bass, keyboard, and dynamically driving drums.
Kurier 30. October 2023