‘Tick, Tick… Boom!’ tells the story of aspiring composer Jonathan Larson (Andrew Garfield), who is struggling to break into the musical theater industry. The musical drama is directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda (‘Hamilton‘) based on Jonathan Larson’s musical of the same name. In the film, fueled by his passion for theater, Larson creates a rock musical that he hopes will be his ticket to success.
However, there are plenty of obstacles in his path, and Larson discovers the harsh realities of being an artist. The movie allows viewers to explore some of his lesser-known creations, such as ‘Superbia,’ which is a crucial part of the movie’s narrative. Here’s everything you need to know about ‘Superbia’ and its real-world fate!
Is Superbia a Real Musical?
A year after graduating from Adelphi University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1982, Larson began working on developing ‘Superbia’ (stylized as ‘SUPERBIA’). He envisioned the musical as a futuristic dystopian sci-fi tale. Larson also wrote an original rock score for the musical. The story revolves around Josh, a genius inventor struggling to make his mark on the world.
It drew some inspiration from George Orwell’s novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four,’ and scripts for a musical titled ‘1984’ written by Larson also exist. However, after failing to secure the rights for the book, Larson’s concept for ‘Superbia’ likely deviated from Orwell’s work. Larson continued to work on the musical for several years and even presented a reading of his early draft for ‘Superbia’ at the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop. At the reading, he received positive feedback from Stephen Sondheim, a musical theater legend Larson idolized.
Sometime later, Larson received the Richard Rodgers Production Award and the Richard Rodgers Development Grant for his early drafts of the rock musical. In 1990, Larson worked on a version of ‘Superbia’ at a Playwrights Horizons workshop. The workshop presentation had various industry folks in attendance. The iteration of ‘Superbia’ received praise, but the musical failed to secure any offers for production. Larson would then shift his focus on writing a rock monologue based on the failure of his project that eventually became ‘Tick, Tick… Boom!’
The prolific playwright then wrote ‘Rent,’ which became his most critically and commercially successful work. After Larson’s tragic passing in 1996, most of his works were donated to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Among those are various drafts of ‘Superbia’ along with numerous piano-vocal scores, notes, lyric sketches, and script pages for the musical. Ultimately, Larson’s ‘Superbia’ remains an unrealized project, and there isn’t any taping of the entire show as it was most likely shelved during development. Therefore, there is no way of actually watching a performance of the musical in any form.
Some songs for the musical in Larson’s voice were released on a CD titled ‘Jonathan Sings Larson’ in 2007. ‘The Jonathan Larson Project,’ a concert featuring some of Larson’s previously unheard and unrecorded works, includes some material he originally created for ‘Superbia.’ A CD of the concert was released in 2019. You can also read Larson’s scripts for ‘Superbia,’ which are a part of the Library of Congress’ esteemed Jonathan Larson Collection.