Boom

Written on April 18th, 2015

Talkin’ ’bout My Generation

Boom is a tribute to the talent, energy and ambition of Rick Miller – one cannot help being in awe of him as he handles all roles in this huge one-man show, now on stage at London’s Grand Theatre.

Miller is Canada’s best impressionist since André-Philippe Gagnon and Rich Little.   He does all the voices and singing in Boom, which he also wrote and directed.  In this documentary-like show, Miller covers the 25 years of the boomer generation from 1945 to 1969.boom rick miller

He weaves the news, politics and culture together in the stories of three people – Madeline, a woman from Cobourg, Ontario; Rudy, an Austrian-born Canadian immigrant; and Lawrence, a black blues singer from Chicago.  All were early boomers, children in the post-war era, now looking back at those 25 years from different perspectives.   He pulls these three tales together until their paths cross and it comes to a fascinating conclusion.  (After each performance, Miller comes back out to talk to audience members where we learn more about the reality of the three characters.  Disclosing his comments here could detract from your enjoyment of the show’s ending.)

Miller tells the story from behind a screen that appears cylindrical.  Credit goes to projection designer David Leclerc and lighting designer Bruno Matte for the amazing visuals.  We see the projected images of the three people, with their mouths moving, but Miller is lip-synching their three distinctive voices.  Newsreels appear and Miller provides voices for John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Walter Cronkite, and others through to Pierre Trudeau. We’re taken through nuclear bomb tests, the Cold War, the Bay of Pigs fiasco, all leading to the hippies of Yorkville.

Miller also gives us all the singing voices and this is where he really shines.  He starts with Perry Como in 1945, and sings 26 different songs spanning all styles, leading us to the advent of rock and roll, through to Woodstock in 1969.  He does a reasonable Hank Williams and a good Jerry Lee Lewis.  There are favourites such as Rock Around the Clock, Hound Dog, The Who’s My Generation, Steppenwolf’s Magic Carpet Ride, Sly Stone’s I want to Take You Higher and Joe Cocker’s With A Little Help from my Friends.   But he really shows his versatility in Joni Mitchell’s Circle Game and Janis Joplin’s Piece of My Heart.

The show stresses the influence of new technology, primarily television.  For comic relief, we see various real commercials – one where doctors recommend Camel cigarettes, another telling mothers to let their babies drink 7-Up.

It’s not a nostalgia trip – in fact, it’s more educational.  He shows us history, not glorifying the so-called good old days, but giving us the warts and all.  When the young fathers returned from World War II, no one knew what post-traumatic stress disorder was in those days. The young vets tried to cure themselves with alcohol. One can see how this led to the next generation’s protests of the Viet Nam war.

Whether you are a boomer or not, you should see this show.  It explains how one generation changed everything.  It will enlighten Generation X, Y and Millennials on how they came to be who they are.  And if the idea of a history lesson doesn’t interest you, you should see this show just to marvel at the amazing talent of Rick Miller.

Boom continues at the Grand Theatre, London until May 2nd.  Tickets are available at the Grand box office at 672-8800 or 1-800-265-1593 or visit www.grandtheatre.com.

Photo: Rick Miller in Boom.  Photo by David Leclerc.

Boom
Written, directed and performed by Rick Miller
Grand Theatre, London
April 17 to May 2, 2015
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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