Review: BOOM

by Lynn on January 28, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Panasonic Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Written, directed and performed by Rick Miller

Set, costume and prop designer, Yannik Larivée

Projections by David Leclerc

Lighting by Bruno Matte

Composer and sound designer, Creighton Doane

A whirlwind search of the past of three people close to Rick Miller, who subsequently realizes where he came from, using history and rock and roll to tell the story.

The Story. Creator/performer, Rick Miller has created a show about three baby boomers; his Mother, two men in her life, Rudy and Larry and the world they lived in from 1945 to 1969. They were born in different countries but coincidentally met at the University of Toronto. Miller’s Mother was Canadian; Rudy was from Europe; Larry was from the United States.

Much of the story follows each character separately before we learn the connection. Then the story of each knits together. Rick Miller has called this a time-capsule of events and music from 1945 to 1969.

The Production.  Designer Yannik Larivée has created a set of a large cone that fits into a wide, tilting walk-way. The walk-way reminded me of the ring of Saturn.

The show begins with Rick Miller introducing himself and his premise—to examine the lives of three baby boomers in his life, and in a way learn about himself, where he came from and perhaps his future. A large projection of a home movie of his mother is projected onto the wall of the cone. Miller faces the cone (his back is to the audience) and asks her a question. She appears to answer the question in the home movie, but it’s Miller vocalizing what she is saying. This will happen for every character. He tells his Mother what his plan is—to talk to Rudy in Montreal and then to Larry in Chicago to find out about their lives.

Projections, newsreels, home movies, pictures, and text are projected onto the wall of the cone at eye-blinking speed as Miller notes various historical facts, movements, political upheavals, and personal happenings.

He sings songs of the times, sung by noted singers of the day, in a manner sort of reminiscent of the actual singer. The name of the singer is flashed onto the wall of the cone.  By this time Miller is inside the cone changing jackets, shirts, wigs, all of which we see because of careful, evocative lighting. There is the crooning of Parry Como, the smooth piano playing and voice of Nat King Cole, the hip-swivelling of Elvis Presley, the wild head-flipping of Jerry Lee Lewis. And of course there is the music and songs that every baby boomer in the audience will know.

Miller gives a crash-course in the historical happens of the 24 years on which his show focuses. There’s the atomic bomb, the change of presidents in the United States; changes of Prime Ministers in Canada; assassinations, freedom marches, protests, Sputnik, moon-launches. History in the blink of an eye.

Miller flits from character to character with ease. Larry is all swagger, a gravelly voice and laid back; Rudy leans forward, has a lilting voice with the hint of an accent; Miller’s Mother has one arm bent, supposingly holding a cigarette, while the other arm supports the first and is relaxed.

Comment.  Boom has all the trademarks of a Rick Miller production; it deals with a subject that is deeply thought, intelligent, impish, perceptive and so energetic it leaves you breathless. He is a musician who can play many instruments; a singer; a mimic; a writer, a creator; a director—all of which he does in this show.

It’s interesting to see the various musical groups and musicians Miller chose to pick for his historical journey. Some like Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Little Richard seem obvious. Selections of Joe Cocker, Janis Joplin, Tony Bennett are interesting. Perhaps some of the selections were favourites of one of the three lives Miller chose to focus on. He doesn’t say.

But while the premise is interesting and there are wonderful nostalgic echoes with which we can all identify, I can’t help but think that this show, busting with invention, misses the mark. We are bombarded with so much information that it’s like those nano-second history lessons that flash facts and pictures at us and expect us to retain it. And this history lesson of flashing-facts lasts two hours with an unnecessary intermission. After a while it all wears thin. And the show ends abruptly, as if Miller could not find a suitable segue to finish.

Miller works very hard. He is very gifted. We can appreciate his abilities. But the show should be tightened and rethought.

Still, if you want an evening with a talented performer and a boomer journey down memory lane, Boom is your show.

David Mirvish presents the KDOONS and WYRD Productions of BOOM

Began: Jan 15, 2015

Earliest I could see it: Jan. 27, 2015

Closes: Feb. 1, 2015

Cast:  1 man

Running Time: 2 hours.

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