For Broadway superfans, Tick, Tick … Boom! will be familiar, but for those who come as fans of Andrew Garfield or in search of a new Netflix movie to pass the time, the autobiographical musical about writing a show that no one ever saw could be confusing. To recap, Tick, Tick … Boom! is Broadway superstar Lin-Manuel Miranda’s film adaptation of Rent creator Jonathan Larson’s autobiographical monologue of the same name, which tells the story of Larson’s quest to write his musical Superbia amid the pressure of being a struggling artist. To make a long story short, Superbia never rose to success, but in writing about his Bohemian struggles in early ’90s New York, Larson’s Tick, Tick … Boom! became the practice round that would prepare Larson to write the hit musical Rent.
Of course, one wouldn’t make this movie—which is both convoluted in plot and history—without a true love for musical theater. And who loves musical theater more than Broadway golden child Lin-Manuel Miranda? So throughout the film, Miranda enlists the help of his friends, collaborators, and personal heroes to bring Larson’s story to life. Here’s a list of every Broadway cameo in the film, in order of appearance, with special attention paid to the cameo-filled writers’ workshop and “Sunday” scenes. (In pictures with multiple people, the cameos are listed top row to bottom row; left to right.)
James C. Nicola and Roger Bart
It may be hard to see them, but James C. Nicola and Roger Bart are both featured as “diners” in the opening number. Nicola is the artistic director of the New York Theater Workshop, a position he held at the time the events in TTB took place, making him an integral part in Rent being put on for audiences.* Bart, who may be familiar to watchers of Desperate Housewives, Revenge, and more, was close friends with the real Jonathan Larson and his co-worker at the Moondance Diner. Bart has also seen success in revivals of Broadway shows such as You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown and The Producers.
Luis Miranda, Jr.
This concierge is none other than Lin-Manuel Miranda’s father, Luis Miranda, Jr. He has cropped up in a few of Lin-Manuel’s productions before.
The Writing Workshop
The first big slew of cameos comes during a scene in which Jonathan participates in a writing workshop. In the audience of the workshop sit a decorated panel of real-life Broadway writers and composers.
Marc Shaiman is a composer and lyricist who has received most acclaim for his work with director Scott Wittman. Most notably, Shaiman composed and co-wrote the lyrics for the smash hit musical Hairspray, which is adapted from the 1988 John Waters film. The Broadway musical adaptation was then adapted into the 2007 musical film starring a host of popular actors including Queen Latifah, Zac Efron, and John Travolta. Shaiman is also known for his work on film and television scores, making him one award away from an EGOT with seven Oscar nominations.
Grace McLean is an actress, playwright, and composer who is most known for her roles in Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 and Alice by Heart.
Eli Bolin is the composer and lyricist behind many of your favorite comedic musical moments on television. He wrote the songs for the (arguably best) episode of Documentary Now!, titled “Original Cast Album: Co-op” and co-wrote the songs for John Mulaney’s special John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch. Bolin has also written for various street-inspired TV notables, such as Sesame Street and Billy on the Street.
Chad Beguelin is a six-time Tony nominated playwright and lyricist who is most known for his work with songwriting partner Matthew Sklar, which includes writing the lyrics and co-writing the book for the musical The Prom, which you may know from its recent Hollywood film adaptation starring Meryl Streep, James Corden, and Nicole Kidman. He also wrote the book and additional lyrics for the stage production of Disney’s Aladdin. His other notable works include two more Broadway adaptations of your family’s favorite films: The Wedding Singer and Elf.
Matthew Sklar is the musical counterpart to Beguelin’s wordsmith mind. He is most prominently credited for composing the music behind the aforementioned productions of The Prom, Elf, and The Wedding Singer.
Alex Lacamoire is the composer, arranger, conductor, and musical director behind much of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work, including In the Heights, Fosse/Verdon, and, everyone’s favorite, Hamilton. He also has award-winning credits on Dear Evan Hansen and The Greatest Showman.
Georgia Stitt is a composer, lyricist, and music director who is most known for her work with her husband, Jason Robert Brown, including music directing/supervising for the film adaptations of his shows The Last Five Years and 13. Stitt has also music-directed and conducted for various productions of classic Broadway shows such as Sweet Charity and Little Shop of Horrors.
Jeanine Tesori is the most prolific and recognized female theatrical composer in history. She has been named a Pulitzer Prize finalist twice, and is a five-time Tony nominee. She has written the music for classics including Fun Home, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Shrek The Musical, Violet, and Caroline, or Change. Film wise, she composed the music to many of the sequels of your favorite childhood films including The Little Mermaid 3, Shrek the Third, The Emperor’s New Groove 2, and Mulan 2.
Schwartz might be one of the most well-known of the bunch. He’s a lyricist and composer who has written the music and lyrics behind some of the most popular musicals of all time including Godspell, Pippin, and Wicked. He has also written the lyrics to some of critics and fans’ favorite animated films, including Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and The Prince of Egypt. And not to mention, he wrote the lyrics to the music for a little film called Enchanted (which is getting its own sequel in 2022).
Jason Robert Brown
Jason Robert Brown is a playwright, composer, and lyricist most known for his autobiographical musicals The Last Five Years and 13, both of which have received the Hollywood treatment (the 13 adaptation is currently in production at Netflix). 13 also harbors the professional debut for popstar Ariana Grande and her Victorious co-star Elizabeth Gillies. Brown has also written the music for other notable productions, such as The Bridges of Madison County.
Shaina Taub has appeared in various Off-Broadway productions including Old Hats, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, and Hadestown.
Tom Kitt is a Pulitzer Prize winning composer, conductor, and orchestrator who is most known for scoring the widely critically acclaimed hit musical Next to Normal. He also has credits on notable recent productions including music composition for If/Then, orchestration arrangement for Jagged Little Pill, and, most importantly, the orchestrations behind the stellar musical adaptation of SpongeBob SquarePants. Kitt has also collaborated with Lin-Manuel Miranda on the music for the Broadway adaptation of Bring It On.
Amanda Green is an actress and singer-songwriter who has collaborated with Kitt often, most notably by co-writing the lyrics to the musical adaptation of Bring It On with Lin-Manuel Miranda. She also wrote the lyrics accompanying Kitt’s composition for the Broadway adaptation of High Fidelity.
Jaime Lozano, native to Mexico, is a relative newcomer to the prime Broadway stage. Heralded as the “next big thing” by Miranda, Lozano’s work includes critically acclaimed Off-Broadway original productions such as The Yellow Brick Road, Children of Salt, Lightning Strikes Twice, and more.
Dave Malloy is a composer, playwright, and lyricist who is most known for writing the music, lyrics, and book for the Tony-winning musical Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812.
Helen Park is another up and comer, currently best known for writing the music and lyrics for the Off-Broadway production of KPOP, alongside Max Vernon.
Stephen Trask is a musician and composer who, most notably, composed the music and lyrics for Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which has seen many a Hollywood Hottie™ playing the titular character, including Darren Criss, Taye Diggs, and Neil Patrick Harris. Trask has also scored some of your favorite films from beloved indies such as Camp to star vehicles like Dreamgirls.
Joe Iconis is a composer, lyricist, and playwright who is best known for writing the music and lyrics to the musical Be More Chill.
Steven Levenson is a playwright and television writer who is best known for writing the Tony-winning book for Dear Evan Hansen. Levenson is also a frequent collaborator of Miranda’s—he wrote the screenplay for TTB and was the showrunner for the critically acclaimed FX limited series Fosse/Verdon (which Miranda produced).
Quiara Alegría Hudes
Quiara Alegría Hudes is a playwright, lyricist, and essayist. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2012 for her play Water by the Spoonful. Additionally, Hudes is known for her collaborations with Miranda, including writing the book for—and film adaptation of—In the Heights.
Another up-and-coming composer and lyricist, McCollum has written the musical The Ballad of Brightwater.
Eisa Davis is a playwright, actress, and singer-songwriter (and the niece of Angela Davis!). In the Broadway world, she’s most known for role as Mother in Passing Strange. She’s also been in television hits such as The Wire, Hart of Dixie, and Mare of Easttown.
Nick Blaemire is a musician, writer, and performer who wrote the lyrics to the Broadway production of Glory Days. Most recently, he was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for his performance as Jonathan Larson in the Off-Broadway revival of, you guessed it, Tick, Tick … Boom!
“Sunday” in the Diner With Jon
The next horde of Broadway greats appears in the musical number “Sunday,” which is already an ode to Stephen Sondheim and his musical Sunday in the Park with George. The number reimagines the Act I closer of Sondheim’s musical in the voice of a daydreaming Larson, who is complaining about working at a packed diner during the Sunday brunch rush. In the film, the number serves as an ode to the legends of Broadway.
McGillin is best known for being the longest running Phantom of The Phantom of the Opera in Broadway history, a role he held for a decade. Besides that record-breaking achievement, McGillin was a part of many other notable Broadway productions, including the 1987 revival of Anything Goes with Patti LuPone.
Chuck Cooper is best known for his Tony-winning performance in the 1997 musical The Life. He has appeared in numerous other productions including Chicago, Passion, and Caroline, or Change.
Mr. Miranda is the director, most recently, of Tick, Tick … Boom! He has also made a habit of putting himself, even if only in cameo, in his own productions.
Grey is most known for originating the role of the Emcee in the Broadway production and 1972 film adaptation of the musical Cabaret, for which he won an Oscar. He also originated the role of the Wizard in the original Broadway production of Wicked. Among his other notable contributions to Broadway, film, and television, Grey also directed the Broadway debut of the play The Normal Heart.
André De Shields
Most known for his Tony-winning performance as Hermes in Hadestown, De Shields is a legendary triple threat, having danced, sung, and choreographed in numerous productions, such as Ain’t Misbehavin’ and The Full Monty.
Brian Stokes Mitchell
Actor and singer, Brian Stokes Mitchell was the go-to leading man on Broadway in the ’90s. He won a Tony for his performance in Kiss Me, Kate, and also gave notable performances in shows such as Shuffle Along, Much Ado About Nothing, and Ragtime—he often reunites with his Ragtime co-star, the legendary Audra McDonald, to perform the musical’s big number “Wheels of a Dream.” Mitchell is also a prolific screen actor, having appeared in many television series and films including Mr. Robot, Glee, and Jumping the Broom.
Soo is best known for originating the role of Eliza in Hamilton, for which she was nominated for a Tony. Additionally, she was the original Natasha in Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812. Since Hamilton, Soo has been branching out into film and television, appearing in Dopesick, The Broken Hearts Gallery, and more.
Renée Elise Goldsberry
Goldsberry is an actress and singer best known for originating the role of Angelica in Hamilton, which earned her a Tony. She also originated the role of Nettie from the Broadway adaptation of The Color Purple. Besides her work in theater, Goldsberry can often be found on the screen in shows such as One Life to Live, The Good Wife, and, most recently, Girls5Eva.
A member of a prominent Hollywood family (her sister is Debbie Allen!), Rashad is most known for portraying Clair Huxtable on The Cosby Show. When it comes to the stage, Rashad won a Tony for her performance in the revival of A Raisin in the Sun. She has also appeared in Broadway classics such as Into the Woods, August: Osage County, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. However, Rashad has recently come under fire twice, first for her support for Bill Cosby, then for her utilizing her voice against the Howard University protests.
Beth Malone is best known for her performance in the original Broadway run of Fun Home, which earned her a Tony nomination. In addition to Fun Home, Malone has been in myriad Broadway productions including Angels in America and Ring of Fire.
Bebe Neuwirth is a singer, dancer, and actress who is widely known for portraying Frasier Crane’s wife, Dr. Lilith Sternin, on Cheers. On Broadway, she has won two Tonys for her performances in the revivals of Sweet Charity and Chicago. She also originated the role of Morticia Addams in the musical adaptation of The Addams Family, and has appeared in shows such as A Chorus Line and Damn Yankees. Neuwirth also has a storied career on the screen, which includes movies like Jumanji and Say Anything and shows such as Madam Secretary.
A 10-time Tony Award nominee and three-time Tony winner (including a lifetime achievement award), Chita Rivera is most known for originating the role of Anita in West Side Story and Velma in Chicago. A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Rivera is one of the most prominent figures in Latin-American history and representation. Her other stage credits include notable performances in Bye Bye Birdie, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and Nine.
Though some may say that Bernadette Peters’s best performance was in the 1997 film adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (it’s me, I’m “some”), she’s most known as a muse for Stephen Sondheim, having originated roles in Sunday in the Park With George and Into the Woods and given notable performances in revivals of Gypsy, A Little Night Music, and Follies. Peters has also worked outside of Sondheim’s productions such as Annie Get Your Gun and Hello, Dolly!. She is also one of the most prolific screen actors presented in this scene, having been in films such as The Jerk, The Longest Yard, and Annie, and in shows such as The Good Fight, Mozart in the Jungle, Smash, and The Carol Burnett Show.
Adam Pascal, Daphne Rubin-Vega, and Wilson Jermaine Heredia
Pascal, Vega, and Heredia are most recognized for originating the roles of Roger, Mimi, and Angel (respectively) in Larson’s musical opus, Rent. Pascal is also known for originating the role of Radames in Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida, and for portraying the Emcee in a revival of Cabaret. Most recently, Pascal portrayed William Shakespeare in the revival of Something Rotten!. He also has a small role in School of Rock, which is one of the best things someone can cameo in.
Both Pascal and Heredia portrayed their original Rent characters in the 2005 film adaptation, though Vega’s Mimi was portrayed by Rosario Dawson. Heredia has dabbled in the screen with roles in the films Flawless and Descent. His other Broadway credits include La Cage aux Folles. Rubin-Vega can currently be found on The CW’s Katy Keene and has appeared recently in the film adaptation of In the Heights. She has also been in other things such as a revival of A Streetcar Named Desire, the film Union Square, and Wild Things.
Though Bradley Whitford portrays musical theater legend Stephen Sondheim in the film, when Sondheim leaves a message on Jonathan’s answering machine, it’s the voice of the actual Sondheim. Stephen Sondheim is, of course, the musical and lyrical genius behind many of Broadway’s most beloved and acclaimed hits such as Company, Follies, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Into the Woods, and Sunday in the Park with George, as well as West Side Story, for which he wrote the lyrics.
Scott Schwartz (on the left) appears as an audience member when Jonathan finally performs Tick, Tick … Boom! The son of Stephen Schwartz, Scott Schwartz is a director who has put on many prominent Off-Broadway productions, the most relevant here being the original Off-Broadway production of Tick, Tick … Boom! in 2001. As the director, he was an integral part of fostering the resilient legacy of both TTB and Larson as a composer and playwright. Schwartz’s other myriad productions include Bat Boy: The Musical, Murder for Two, and The Prince of Egypt.
The last cameo goes to Christopher Jackson, who also appears as an audience member when Jonathan performs Tick, Tick … Boom!. Jackson is a frequent collaborator of Miranda, appearing in Moana and originating both the role of Benny in In the Heights and George Washington in Hamilton. He has also appeared in productions of Memphis and The Lion King. Beyond the stage, Jackson has also made appearances in various TV shows, most notably in Oz.
Correction, Nov. 22, 2021: This piece originally misstated that James C. Nicola was a former director of the New York Theater Workshop. He is still the artistic director of the NYTW today. This article was also updated to add Scott Schwartz’s cameo.