Today, the film tick, tick …Boom!, premieres on Netflix, telling the story of Jonathan Larson, the composer and playwright of the rock musical Rent just as he is on the cusp of fame as he approaches his 30th birthday. This is before the show won three Tony awards and he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Those who know Larson’s story will of course know that all of his accolades were won posthumously and he never got to see the success of Rent. The action of tick, tick …Boom! happens before that and it is staged as its own rock musical, with filming locations all over New York City that recreate the city of the 1990s that Larson inhabited.
tick, tick …Boom!, starring Andrew Garfield as Larson and Vanessa Hudgens as Karessa Johnson, is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s feature film directorial debut and you will see the same care for recreating an authentic New York City in the sets as was seen in In the Heights, the musical-turned-film written by Miranda. Miranda saw the musical Rent as a 17-year old, which was an event he contends served as a catalyst for his own musical career. tick, tick …Boom! is based on Larson’s own work, a confessional musical monologue, he wrote about his life that was later staged as a three-person off-Broadway show. The movie also stars Bradley Whitford as Stephen Sondheim.
tick, tick …Boom!‘s production designer Alex DiGerlando tells Untapped New York about the period aura that the film intended to evoke as well as about the design of specific filming locations shown in the movie, many of which have disappeared in the intervening years.
tick, tick …Boom! is a fast-paced musical style film, with a star turn from Andrew Garfield. The film addresses the AIDS crisis, the struggle of creators like Larson to make their mark, and the changing New York City of the ’90s. Without further ado, here are the filming locations for tick, tick …Boom!
1. Moondance Diner
One of the main filming locations for tick, tick …Boom! is the Moondance Diner. If you’re looking for it IRL, you may be disappointed to learn that it no longer stands at Grand Street and 6th Avenue. The diner itself was saved and trucked off to La Barge, Wyoming, while a hotel was built on the site (formerly the James Hotel, now the Modernhaus Soho). Larson works at the Moondance Diner while writing his musicals and his co-workers are key characters in tick, tick …Boom!, including one dying of HIV/AIDS. In the opening of the film, you see Garfield as Larson biking through Duarte Square with Moondance Diner in the background. This was filmed in present-day New York City with the diner added through VFX. For a big song and dance number (“Sunday”) and other scenes, a physical set of the diner was built on a soundstage.
The set included the building out of surrounding sidewalks, recreating some of the cobblestone streets in the area that have been since lost and a subway entrance nearby. The front wall of the diner was built with a hinge to open up and become a stage. The interior was recreated using photographs and home videos from Larson and his friends.