Time Travel through the Baby Boom Years
(Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation)
Reviewed by Mary Alderson
Boom is the story of the baby boomer generation, as seen through the eyes of three individuals. The amazing Rick Miller performs those three parts and many more, while covering the political and cultural history from 1945 to 1969. If isn’t enough that Miller performs all the characters in this one-man show, he wrote and directed it, too.
I had the pleasure of seeing it on stage seven years ago at London’s Grand Theatre. While I enjoyed it then, it brings even more meaning with it now. The more things change, the more they stay the same, or as the French say it “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” That’s the poignant message Boom has in 2022.
In Boom, we see the trauma created by World War II, the Korean War, the Viet Nam War, and the Cold War, as well as the fear of atomic bombs and nuclear warfare. Today we see the same horrific situations being repeated in Ukraine. Some of the stories told by Miller give us the same gut-wrenching feeling we currently have from watching the nightly news.
Miller is Canada’s best impressionist since Rich Little. He does all the voices and singing in Boom, both male and female.
He weaves the news, politics and culture together in the stories of three people – Maddie, his mother from Port Hope; Rudi, 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.
As of opening night at Port Hope’s Capitol Theatre, Miller has presented this show 401 times, finally bringing it full circle to his mother’s home town.
Miller tells the story with video, photos or words appearing on a screen above him. We see the projected images of the three people, with their mouths moving, but Miller is speaking their lines in three very distinctive voices, perfectly synchronized with the video. 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 good Hank Williams and a great 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, almost a documentary. 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.
The only concerns with this production are the difficulty in reading some of the words going across the screen, and the dimly lit projections. I hope this can be remedied for future performances.
Whether you are a boomer or not, you should see this show. It explains how one generation changed everything. Since creating Boom, Miller has produced two sequels: Boom X and Boom YZ, so we hope to see those on the Capitol’s stage in the future.
If the idea of a history lesson doesn’t interest you, you should see this show just to marvel Rick Miller’s amazing talent as an impressionist.
Boom continues at the Capitol Theatre in Port Hope until March 20, with Covid protocols in place. Tickets are available at the box office by calling 905-885-1071 or visiting https://capitoltheatre.com/
Photo: Rick Miller in Boom. Photo by David Leclerc.
Written, directed and performed by Rick Miller
Capitol Theatre, Port Hope
March 10 to 20, 2022
Reviewed by Mary Alderson