Review: BOOM X

by Lynn on May 13, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Really live and in person at the Streetcar Crow’s Nest, produced by Kidoons and WYRD Productions in association with Crow’s Theatre, Theatre Calgary and The 20K Collective. Plays until May 28, 2023.

Writer, director and performer, Rick Miller

Video & projection co-designer, Nicolas Dostie

Video & projection co-designer, Irina Litvinenko

Lighting by Bruno Matte

Costume and props by Virginie Leclerc

Set, sound and composer, Rick Miller

Sébastien Heins appears as “Brandon” on video

Boom X is wild and Rick Miller leaves you breathless.

Boom X is a blast of a show. Rick Miller is an explosion of talent. He has written, directed and performs the piece. BOOM X is one play of a trilogy. In that trilogy Rick Miller chronicles 75 years of history using the politics, events and especially the music, to tell the story.

BOOM was Part 1 and is comprised of the stories and music of his parents. BOOM YZ covers his daughters’ segment of the history. And in the middle is BOOM X that covers Rick Miller’s own stories, the historical events and the music between 1970 to 1995. Miller says that BOOM Xis a search for identity, namely his own—who is he? What is his path in life?  What has formed him? And it’s a wild ride?

BOOM X is definitely not a dry history lesson. In this tight show of 100 minutes, Rick Miller plays 100 characters. He performs some of the defining music of the day that effected or impressed him. He sings and plays the guitar in the style of many of the musicians who were game changers and who he was listening to growing up. For example: “American Woman” sung in the strong high notes of Burton Commings, “Proud Mary” sung with the hip swaying and hair flipping of Tina Turner, “One Love” sung in the style of Bob Marley. The musical segments go like the wind. But you get the flavour of the song and the singing by the way Rick Miller nails the performance style of the artist.

Rick Miller performs on a platform surrounded by various guitars and a stand microphone. In front is a scrim or curtain and depending on the lighting, (kudos to lighting designer, Bruno Matte) we can see Rick Miller behind the scrim performing.

While he’s singing, projected on the scrim in a ticker-tape format, are headlines about the important news of the day. Each year is projected on the scrim and headlines stream across the scrim: telling of various wars, the bombing of Cambodia, the Kent State riots, the election of presidents, the deposing of dictators in Europe etc., the shooting in Montreal of the 24 women and the death of 14 of them at École Polytechnique, Gloria Steinem giving a speech—the emerging of the women’s movement; Prince Charles marrying Lady Diana Spencer, Marlon Brando refusing his Oscar and having activist Sacheen Littlefeather explain that he was refusing it because of the way American natives were depicted in American films, and on and on. This being a multi-media age, and we are used to being bombarded media.  

BOOM X is really Rick Miller’s awakening, politically, socially, emotionally and psychologically. It’s his search for meaning in life. It’s about his parents and how they met. He also has videos of four people he interviewed for this show. Initially he plays the video and we see the body language and the voice of these people—two men and two women. After that first viewing Rick Miller then takes on the persona, the voice and the body language of each person as he references them through the span of the show. We know who Miller is ‘voicing’ because the name is projected.

Rick Miller is a master of creation and writing. Gradually we realize that these people are connected in more ways than just interview sources. One turns out to be his long-time life partner after many efforts to win her over.  Another is his step sister. I love the subtle way Rick Miller weaves a story, connects it with video film and home movies in a sense and music. Sobering news is projected on the scrim while Miller performs wild music in the background. He often comes out from behind the scrim to put the events in context. He tells us what he was thinking at the time?

He thought he would be an architect and did earn two degrees but then changed direction to find his true path—theatre. For much of the journey he is a dutiful kid, not making waves, then spreading his wings and conscience to embrace a wider world.

BOOM X is masterful.  I say that Rick Miller is a wild man of creativity because he flits from song to song doing quick costume and wig changes along the way. He throws himself into the frenzy of the various performance styles. And he is also meticulous. He is meticulous in being able to stand aloof and observe the events of a time period and how it factors into how we shift and flow from changes in our lives etc. He is meticulous in picking events that changed the world, not just were noteworthy for their own sake. The same thing can apply to the bands and music that he re-enacts.He is meticulous in weaving the dialogue of the four people who guided him through this segment of his life.

Rick Miller is open-hearted, thoughtful, joyful, observant and exuberant in the telling. He took the audience through a raucous segment playing bits of music of bands that changed the musical world and asked the audience to name the group while he played. They were right there with him. His enthusiasm is infectious. And so is his thoughtfulness. He certainly stops us in our tracks with some of the events that changed our world: the FLQ crisis; the death of those women in Montreal. Sobering. But the overall effect of BOOM Xis breathlessness.

You watch and listen to Rick Miller, his observations; musical prowess and sheer energy to tell this complex story, and you wonder how he does it. He does it through huge talent.  The show is wonderful.

Produced by Kidoons and WYRD Productions in association with Crow’s Theatre, Theatre Calgary and The 20K Collective.

Plays until May 28, 2023.

Running Time: 100 breathless minutes.

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