Autobiographical works can often seem self-indulgent, but thankfully that is not the case with Jonathan Larson’s tale of a struggling musical theatre composer, gripped by ennui as his 30th birthday approaches.
The career specifics of fictional composer John’s life, as portrayed by Paul Keating, will probably play best to those in the industry, but the emotional impact of his inner turmoil is universal. Pressured by his girlfriend to move to the country and settle down, and by his best friend to leave theatre for the financial security of an office job, the ticking time bomb of the show’s title resonates with anyone who has ever faced a landmark birthday with a sense of dreams unfulfilled.
It is a shame that Keating struggles with pitching in several of his solo numbers, as otherwise he handles the monologue-heavy script deftly. Around him flit a number of characters portrayed by Julie Atherton and Leon Lopez. Atherton is on cracking form, whether as the weary girlfriend, the flirtatious actress who turns John’s head or the completely stereotypical but hilarious Jewish agent. Her solo number, Come To Your Senses, is the highlight of the show.
Lopez fares less well, struggling to evoke any empathy for the former roommate who has been keeping his own secrets while John obsesses with his futuristic rock musical. It is left up to Keating to make the relationship between the two work, which he just about manages.
The end result is an enjoyable musical, albeit one which probably suits a smaller space than even the diminutive Duchess stage.
_Reviewed for [The Stage](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/24411-tick-tick-boom)_
**Duchess, London**, May 13-17
**Author:** Jonathan Larson
**Director:** Hannah Chissick
**Producers:** Jamie Hendry Productions, Neil Eckersley and Paul Spicer for Speckulation Entertainment
**Cast includes:** Julie Atherton, Paul Keating, Leon Lopez
**Running time:** 1hr 30mins