Jan. 28 2009 12:00 AM
(Left) Director Chad Badgero goes over some post-rehearsal notes with the cast of 'tick, tick ... BOOM!" From left: Badgero, Sam Zikakis, Jocelyn Scofield and Drew Fifield. (Above) Zikakis and Scofield during rehearsal.
That ticking sound you hear is not a bomb. At least director Chad Badgero hopes Peppermint Creek Theatre Co.’s upcoming musical won’t be a bomb. He’d rather audiences be blown away by his production of “tick, tick…BOOM!,” which opens Thursday.

Badgero chose this piece for Peppermint Creek’s sole musical of the season for personal and professional reasons. Professionally, he felt it fit the company’s mission of producing “classic and contemporary theater that addresses vital issues in our society, raises awareness and encourages dialogue while entertaining.”

Badgero’s other reason for choosing it was “really more personal.” The musical is an autographical piece by musical composer Jonathan Larson. It tells the story of Jon, a New York City composer who is facing down his 30th birthday in 1990. While he struggles to complete the workshop of his new musical “Superbia,” Jon also debates whether he should give up his dreams of being a successful composer. 

Badgero, who founded Peppermint Creek, knows that feeling well, having devoted the last five years to making his company a successful, non-profit theater that produces a full season of thought-provoking work. In that time, he has built a reputation for creating solid productions with talented, dedicated casts and directors.

At rehearsal a week before opening night, it was apparent that another quality show was in the making.  Sam Zikakis, in the lead role of Jon, has a sure voice that works well for the demographic he portrays. Drew Fifield has a broader vocal range and nice control of his instrument. Jocelyn Scofield, as Susan, has powerful pipes reflective of a seasoned professional. She has recorded two albums, with a third to be released this year, and she has spent the last three years touring the country as a singer-songwriter.

The main theme of the show hits as close to home with these cast members as it did Badgero. Discussing the play and their roles in it before rehearsal, the cast noted that playing actors who struggle with the choice of art versus financial security isn’t a stretch. What is interesting is the myriad ways the cast and director have chosen to handle the issues of passion versus security.
Zikakis is pursuing a degree in communications at Michigan State University and acts in his free time. He loves performing, but he isn’t willing to stake his future on it. Fifield earned a BFA in theater from the University of Michigan-Flint, and now works a day job that allows him to continue his acting and directing. Scofield continues to pursue her music career as her primary focus.

“You don’t know if you will ever have success, when it’ll come, or how big it’ll be,” Scofield said. “It’s a heavy weight on your shoulders.”

“Jocelyn and I share that struggle,” Badgero added. “We’ve spent many a late night whining and whining about it.  It’s always the same question: ‘How long am I going to do this until I give up?’”
In some ways, it is a no-win situation. “Either way you sacrifice, whether you decide to go for it or you don’t,” Scofield said. “You’re either sacrificing your passion or sacrificing your financial stability.”

Of course, one way to avoid sacrificing passion or stability is to find financial success in what you are passionate about. It worked for Larson, who went on to major success with Broadway juggernaut “Rent,” and perhaps this tick will help bring some BOOM! to the careers of this cast. The only way to make that happen is through hard work.

The conversation winds down, and the cast members take their places. They launch into the performance, their first official “off-book” rehearsal. Music director Dan Alt accompanies the near pitch-perfect performances and fills in for off-stage dialogue.

Badgero, with his calm yet focused demeanor, feeds the cast the occasional line, conducts stage movements with subtle gestures and scribbles page after page of notes. 

After the last note fades, Badgero huddles the group up to share his copious notes. The cast look not just satisfied, but ebullient. This is what they want and need to do. Career path or not, it is obvious no one in this room would ever settle for a life less this passion.