Tick, Tick…Boom! Returns To The Stage: Interview With George Salazar

Believe in yourself, take criticisms as water off a duck’s back, trudge on and conquer the world.

Most thespians have heard of Rent. We have all listened to the album on a loop, seen it on Broadway or at a local high school, most definitely have seen the movie, and maybe even lip synced to “Out Tonight” once or twice. This Pulitzer Prize winning show was written by the late Jonathan Larson. I have personally always been a huge Rent fan, and had recently come across a cast album for Larson’s lesser known work Tick, Tick…Boom!

Tick, Tick…Boom! is Larson’s autobiographical story about the struggle to become a successful composer. Though he never got to see the impact his work had on the world, this early work gives us some great insight to the composer we have grown to appreciate.

George Salazar is starring as (the central character) Michael in the current run of Tick, Tick…Boom!. Salazar’s first big break was getting cast in the national tour for Spring Awakening. From there, he has starred in multiple shows on Broadway and Off-Broadway. Past roles include the 2011 Godspell revival and the Joe Iconis composed Be More Chill  in 2015.

Salazar was nice enough to answer some questions for Theatre Nerds about how he got his start in theatre and what this show means to him.

Theatre Nerds – When did you first start performing?

SalazarI was always making people laugh, but never knew I could actually do that for a living. I got roped into auditioning for Little Shop of Horrors in my junior year of high school. I very much wanted to just go home, eat some pizza rolls, and watch Jerry Springer, but I decided to give it a shot and eventually was cast as Seymour Krelborn. I haven’t been able to stop since.

Theatre Nerds – Who were some of your early influences?

SalazarI very quickly took a liking to The Last Five Years and that began my idolizing of  (the actor) Norbert Leo Butz. Here was a guy who could be absolutely hilarious one second and then make an audience cry in the next. That was the kind of work I knew I wanted to do and Norbert quickly became my biggest idol.

Theatre Nerds – When did you know that theatre was what you wanted to do? Was there a defining moment?

Salazar – I had dreams of becoming a neurosurgeon, and those dreams quickly changed. The single defining moment was when my drama teacher met with my parents to talk about college. They of course encouraged me to study pre-Med. My parents — on the drive home from that meeting — told me that she only said one thing to them. ‘There a millions of doctors out there, but only one George.’ They were on board at that point and have been incredibly supportive ever since.

Will Connolly and George Salazar in "Be More Chill" Photo Credit: Charles Erickson Photography
Will Connolly and George Salazar in “Be More Chill” Photo Credit: Charles Erickson Photography

Theatre Nerds – Let’s talk about Tick, Tick…Boom! Super exciting it’s coming back. Also insane that the venue had to change due to high ticket demands. This cast really only consists of you and two other characters. What was the audition process like?

Salazar – The audition process was as lovely as audition processes can possibly go. I got the audition and immediately texted Nick Blaemire. We did Godspell together and we’re thick as thieves. I loved the idea of doing Tick, Tick…Boom! and especially loved the idea of doing it with Nick. I had also worked with Ciara Renee and fell in love with her immediately. Nick told me he was going to be at the audition, reading opposite the actors coming in for the role, and I couldn’t wait to read opposite him. I knew our chemistry as friends was going to be very helpful. I went in for it and fell instantly in love with Jonathan Silverstein, our director, Joey Chancey, our MD, and Christine O’Grady, our choreographer, who I have known for years but hadn’t gotten an opportunity to work with her.

The energy in the room totally fit my vibe and I loved every moment of my fifteen minutes in the room. I sang “Michael in the Bathroom” from Be More Chill, written by Joe Iconis, sang “Real Life” from Tick, Tick…Boom!, and read two scenes opposite Nick. I left the room feeling really good about it. A few hours later, I got the offer from my agent and I screamed and texted Nick. It’s been the most incredible experience working on this show with Nick and Ciara and we can’t wait to share it with audiences.

Tick, Tick…Boom! Returns To The Stage: Interview With George Salazar
George Salazar, Ciara Renee & Nick Blaemire in Tick Tick…Boom!

Theatre Nerds – One of my favorite things about this show is it causes us to all ask ourselves, “Is my dream still worth pursuing?” We’ve all gotten to that hard spot in our careers. How do you think this show is relevant today?

Salazar – There are a lot of similarities in the themes of this show and Sunday in the Park with George. Two shows that revolve around the timeless process of creating art and how the creation of art reacts with various aspects of real life. That clash (or harmony, if you’re lucky) remains the same as time passes. It’s the most relevant thing specific to us as artists and lovers of theater.

The show is also relevant because it’s an autobiographical piece about Jonathan Larson. He is very clearly one of the most innovative and earth-changing composers of any generation and influenced so much of what we see and hear today. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Rent and the untimely death of Jonathan Larson, and our production pays such a tribute to this genius and game changer. Jonathan changed the American musical theater, inspiring so many and paving the way for artists like Joe Iconis and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Also, Jon is approaching his 30th birthday and for those of us who are approaching 30 or have passed 30, the stress that number holds is relatable in the most visceral way.

This story showcases the artist’s life, specifically this artist’s life. People think of Jonathan Larson as the writer of Rent, but he also wrote a musical called Superbia that never grew legs and went anywhere. And Tick, Tick…Boom! was written as a sort of open letter to the industry. You get to know the starving artist: the complicated individual who tries so desperately to balance his art and his personal life, do his work for his art yet pay his bills, the very life that so many of us “theatre nerds” commit ourselves to. Jon never gave up and worked his ass off until the end to make his dreams come true. It’s an affirmation of sorts. Believe in yourself, take criticisms as water off a duck’s back, trudge on and conquer the world.

In the show, Larson says, “I want to write music. I want to sit down right now at my piano and write a song that people will listen to and remember.” Despite his doubts, he did just that. You can see George Salazar and the rest of the cast of Tick, Tick…Boom! from now until November 20th at the Acorn Theatre. Get Tix Here

Learn more about George at http://www.thegeorgesalazar.com/

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