Ottawa Theatre Review: Toto Too Presents tick, tick…Boom!

Theatre season in Ottawa is in full swing, and I had the privilege of visiting The Gladstone Theatre this week for the first time in quite a while. Toto Too Theatre is back with their latest show: tick, tick…BOOM! written by Jonathan Larson (Rent) and directed by Lisa James.

I had very few expectations heading into this show as I wasn’t familiar with the story. Initially, throughout the first half, I (prematurely!) concluded that it was simply depicting the struggles faced by the three main characters, but later, I came to realize that it was in fact a celebration of passion and resilience; I found it to be quite inspiring! It really motivates one to stick with their dreams and to follow their heart.

There are only three characters in this show, and each night rotates between two casts: the ‘tick’ threesome and the ‘boom’ threesome. I attended a ‘tick’ night, which featured Noah Pacheco as John, Morgan Coughlan as Michael, and while it would normally have Abigail White as Susan, Ainslie Moors filled in for her for this particular show.

Morgan Coughlan, Noah Pacheco, Abigail White (Tick Cast) Photo: Jayant Kumar from Larocque Photography

Set in New York City in 1990, tick, tick…Boom! is about the life of Jon, a not-so-successful playwright, looking to make his mark in the musical theatre industry while serving tables to make ends meet. As he approaches the ripe old age of thirty, he’s suffering from a pre-mid-life crisis. He is watching his best friend and roommate, Michael, achieve success and wealth through his career outside of the arts, which has afforded him a life of luxury. In addition to this, Jon’s relationship with his girlfriend is being presented with a complex decision: she is seeking a new life outside of New York City, and wanting to start a family, whereas Jon has his heart set on writing a musical and making it big on Broadway. As Jon’s thirtieth birthday looms, and his life-altering play has not yet been written, his internal clock is tick, tick…BOOM!(ing).

As someone who grew up in the 90’s, I really enjoyed the frequent references to 90’s trends throughout the play. From talking about brand new, shiny parquet flooring to the revolutionary invention of heated seats in a car, I was constantly reminded about all the amazing things that the 90s had to offer. The set for the show was very well constructed and offered versatility that is often not found at The Gladstone. The theatre, with its quaint size and layout, is the charm that continues to draw audiences to its shows. While it offers a fairly small stage, the set designers, led by the experienced David Magladry, took advantage of its height and constructed a raised platform where the musicians set up. The performers throughout the show were typically below the band allowing the audience to enjoy both aspects of the performance. I really appreciate being able to see the musicians!

Standout Performances

Since there were only three performers in the show, all of which were very good, I’ll mention what I enjoyed about each of them.

Abigail White, Noah Pacheco, Morgan Coughlan (Tick Cast) Photo: Jayant Kumar from Larocque Photography

First is the character Jon, portrayed by Noah Pacheco. He was the lead in this show, and he absolutely killed it! This is the first time I’ve seen Noah perform in a lead role, but he has had ensemble roles in Orpheus’ Something Rotten! And Newsies. He truly is a fantastic performer and he proved his ability to take on a lead role; he really became his character. His singing was brilliant, and he has a natural ability to engage the audience, allowing them to experience his emotional highs and lows right along with him. In my opinion, this show would have not been anywhere near as enjoyable without someone of his caliber leading the charge. According to his bio in the program, Pacheco “aspires to become a familiar face in Ottawa’s growing musical theatre scene.” I have no doubt that aspiration will come true in the very near future. I’ll be excitedly watching for his name in upcoming shows.

The second character was Michael, portrayed by Morgan Coughlan. Coughlan is known throughout the theatre industry for his incredible dance choreography and natural abilities to perform and entertain an audience. I feel as though his true skills were not able to be fully demonstrated in this production though, and that some of his talent was wasted. With that being said, one song in particular was incredible, and I loved the choreography that he and Pacheco performed. I believe that song was “Sunday” where they didn’t simply dance, they played out actions with fictitious props. It was great, and I just loved it. Aside from his dancing ability, Coghlan really pulled off the ‘best friend’ role to Pacheco’s character. He was a great choice for this role, and really added to the show.

Morgan Coughlan Photo: Jayant Kumar from Laroque Photography

Last, but not least, was Susan, portrayed by Ainslie Moors. I last saw Moors in the Toto Too rendition of Avenue Q. She played one of the “Bad News Bears” and was an incredible addition to that show. Her performance in tick, tick…Boom! was also excellent. She really brought a depth to the character that made it very believable and relatable. Moors portrayed Pacheco’s character’s long(ish) time girlfriend, who had aspirations of leaving New York and starting a family in Cape Cod. She had been the supportive girlfriend for a long time, but was starting to feel like it was going nowhere and her internal clock was tick, tick, Boom!(ing) as well.

James Maxwell Pettifer (Boom Cast), Ainslie Moors (Stand-In from Boom Cast) Photo: Jayant Kumar from Larocque Photography

Tick, tick…Boom! Is running at the Gladstone only until November 4th, so if you’re looking for a night out and a great show, I recommend grabbing those tickets soon. The show is almost exactly 90 minutes with no intermission.  

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