Jonathan Larson's original autobiographical play Tick, Tick...Boom! is itself a love letter to the theater, with Larson detailing his struggles to become a renowned playwright. It was only natural that Lin-Manuel Miranda would take that work and run with it for his adaptation, funneling in a ton of references to Broadway and its finest stars. No one moment in Tick, Tick...Boom! is quite as packed with references as the diner scene where Andrew Garfield as Larson daydreams while the diner is filled with Broadway legends new and old.
It's a who's who of theater, with cameos from Bernadette Peters, Chita Rivera, Joel Grey, Mj Rodriguez, Brian Stokes Mitchell, André De Shields, Howard McGillin, Chuck Cooper, Bebe Neuwirth, and Beth Malone, among many others. In an interview with EW, Miranda talked about moving heaven and Earth to make the Broadway stars align for this one scene. He approached the scene from a theater buff's mindset, looking at Larson's biggest inspirations to make the scene best reflect his inner thoughts. "You know those posters where Amy Winehouse is eating with Elvis and Marilyn Monroe?" Miranda asked in the interview. "I wanted it to be like that — musical theater legends unbound by time starting with the folks that are absolutely heroes to Jonathan Larson."
Even people Larson wouldn't have known at the time of writing Tick, Tick...Boom! appear in his daydream, as the original cast of his massive musical Rent and stars from Miranda's own masterpiece Hamilton are there. In all, it was a massive undertaking only made more complicated by the pandemic. Some of the original cast of Into the Woods was intended to be a part of the production as well, but Miranda had to make a late change, opting to appear in the diner scene himself. It still makes a lot of sense given Miranda's own impact on the musical world through Hamilton and his previous Tony award-winning play In the Heights.
With a little Hollywood magic and some elbow grease, Miranda was able to fit everyone safely in the shots while not jeopardizing the Broadway stars. Restrictions were taken seriously on the production with the crew losing out on the typical jam sessions and fun that typically come with Miranda's productions, something Vanessa Hudgens detailed in a previous interview. Still, the scene with arguably the biggest hurdles to jump over was brought together and organized in a thoughtful manner to reflect the generations of Broadway stardom Miranda had at his disposal.
Moreover, Miranda had a personal reason for wanting the scene to be perfect too as he recalled seeing Chicago for the first time:
I was at the theater at midnight on Friday when [the movie] Chicago came out, and I remember the screams when Chita Rivera showed up in the prison for just, like, a second. When we were talking about the sequence, I was like, 'I want 20 Chita Riveras in prison in Chicago. That was the goal.
Garfield, an avid theater buff as well, absolutely loved being surrounded by many of Broadway's finest for the sequence, saying:
Theater is a version of church for me. Every day was an honoring of musical theater artists and anyone with a dream. It's a universal thing, anyone who feels they have a calling, that they have something to give and express and that they want to offer to the world and be woven into the fabric of life in a meaningful way. Working with all these incredible, legend actors was surreal, and I haven't fully computed it yet.
Tick, Tick...Boom! is out now on Netflix.
He also reveals which scenes he'd love to show Jonathan Larson.