Home » City Pages » ‘Tick, Tick… Boom!’Local actors take the stage in explosively popular musical

‘Tick, Tick… Boom!’
Local actors take the stage in explosively popular musical

The play cast

By Janelle Fisher

City Pages Editor

Fans of the film directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda and starring Andrew Garfield will be delighted to know they have an opportunity to see the show of the same name which served as the basis for the film, written by Jonathan Larson, in Ashwaubenon this weekend.

Tick, Tick… Boom! will be put on by Play-by-Play Theatre, which Managing Director Carolyn Silverberg said is the area’s first professional regional theater in the Green Bay Area.

“We’re in our eighth season now,” she said. “We started in 2014 and we bill ourselves as the first professional regional theater in Green Bay and I know that sometimes can get confusing for people, but basically we hire and work with a lot of professionals in the business, our artistic director is a professional in the theater business and we use people who are from the area that have gone off to do theater and are part of the Actors Equity Union and we bring them back so that local performers here have the opportunity to work with professionals and learn from them and better themselves in their craft as well.”

Another way Play-by-Play separates itself from other local theater groups is by its choice of shows, focusing mainly on shows with small casts and Shakespeare productions.

“We focus on small-cast plays and musicals,” she said. “A lot of our musicals that we’ve done in the past have been actor/musician, where the performers also provide the music and there’s not necessarily a separate band. And since 2019, we’ve done our free or very very discounted-price Shakespeare in the park productions with Downtown Green Bay.”

For Silverberg, the connection to Play-by-Play Theatre runs deeper than a passion for plays and musicals.

“[Play-by-Play] was founded by my parents and friends of theirs — they all kind of started it together,” she said. “I was in England at the time for grad school when they were doing their first productions. I was here for the very first one and then kind of left and they continued on so I was just helping with the Facebook whenever I could. It wasn’t until I came back from grad school in 2015 that I started helping out a little bit more where I could.”

Just a couple years later, Silberberg’s involvement with the theatre group would become even greater, stepping up to keep things running in her father’s absence.

“Unfortunately, my father, who was the managing director, passed away in 2017,” she said. “So there was a very big shift with Play-by-Play. How do we go ahead? What do we do now? So I essentially stepped into his shoes and since then I’ve been running the theater company as the managing director.”

Working alongside Silverberg is her mom, Mary Ehlinger.

“I work with my mother, who’s the artistic director,” Silverberg said. “So she oversees more of the artistic/creative planning of things and I help run the day-to-day business side of things.And we’ve got our board and our action committee and lots of people supporting. It’s been really nice that we’ve been able to keep it going, especially since unlike other theater companies in the area, we don’t own our space.”

Because the group doesn’t have a dedicated space, Silverberg said they truly do have to plan on a show-by-show basis, as the name implies.

“Kind of with our name, Play-by-Play, we kind of do go play-by-play because unlike other groups we can’t necessarily plan a season in advance. We kind of have to wait and see what space is available and are we able to do something and make it work.”

Making Tick, Tick… Boom! work was a process Silverberg said she actually began several years ago when she was first introduced to the show.

“Tick, Tick… Boom! was a show that was kind of on my radar a few years ago,” she said. “I forgot how I came across it. I was listening to the music and really, really loved it and as I was looking into it, I was like ‘oh my god, this is a three-person musical. That’s kind of perfect for us and really artistic and a minimal set.’ We like to look at different ways to be creative with our productions, but it just kind of seemed perfect.”

It wasn’t until a few years had passed and the show’s film version gained traction on Netflix that Play-by-Play solidified plans to put on the show.

“I mentioned it to our board and we would have our meetings and we always have a running list of plays and musicals that we think would work and it was always on the list,” she said. “I kept mentioning it and putting the bug in people’s ears… And then, the movie came out and it kind of was on everybody’s radar. And not to pull the ‘well, I knew about it before it was a movie’ card, but that is kind of how I felt, like ‘yes, everybody, this is a great musical. I’m so glad you like it. Now you should see the actual stage show because it is, of course, so different from the movie.’ The popularity of the film kind of boosted my reasonings for doing [the show] and everyone kind of saw that a little clearer and as we were looking ahead to this season this year, it all just kind of fell into place.”

Silverberg said people who have seen the movie, especially, should come to see the live show.

“I think it’s good for people to kind of be familiar with the movie because then you can see how different it is but also how similar,” she said. “I think you can appreciate the musical even more by being familiar and seeing both versions.”

Silverberg said part of the appeal of the show is the relatability of its message.

“The message of it and what the main character John goes through, I personally really gravitate to,” she said. “He’s dealing with the impending doom of turning 30 years old and feeling like he hasn’t accomplished anything he wants to and he compares himself to what other people are doing and that’s definitely something I can really relate to. I’m sure many other people can relate to feeling that way. It was nice to have this kind of more modern musical that there was also a personal connection with beyond just wanting to create good art and good theater.”

Of course, good art and good theater are not to be ignored and Silverberg said the more technical elements of the show appealed to her as well.

“My background is Shakespeare,” she said. “That’s actually what I have a degree in, and so I take a lot of Shakespearean theater and those components and apply it to modern contemporary plays and musicals which just helps really well. And something that is big in Shakespeare is that they didn’t have sets, they didn’t have light and they didn’t have sound effects. It all focused on the acting and the language and I really admire and love that kind of theater. And what’s really fun about tick, tick… Boom! Is that yes, we have lights and we have sound effects, but there’s not a big set, there’s not fancy costumes. It’s all very minimal and it really hinges on the storytelling and it kind of goes in between this abstract, breaking-the-fourth-wall kind of thing into more reality and more of the typical heater that we’re all kind of used to. So it kind of plays on both sides of theater, which I just adore.”

The cast for Play-by-Play’s production of Tick, Tick… Boom!, Silverberg said, is made up of three local actors with varying degrees of experience.

“Luke Aumann plays John,” she said. “He is actually from the Appleton area and he is a music teacher and this is his first production with us and, I think, his first production in quite some time… Alex Sabin plays Michael. He was in our production of Much Ado About Nothing last year — our summer Shakespeare production — and he’s a very familiar face to many theater companies in the area… And Guinevere Casperjust recently relocated to Green Bay — she’s a Milwaukee native but she went to UW-Green Bay and when she graduated she went back down to Milwaukee. She’s been working in Milwaukee for the past year or two working in theater, and it just so happens that she knew she was going to be moving up here and that she would like to audition so the timing was perfect and this is her first show with us as well.”

If you’re interested in learning more about Play-by-Play Theatre or getting tickets to an upcoming show, visit playbyplaytheatre.org.

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