Rick Miller is a super charming and very creative man. His new show, BOOM, is a multimedia extravaganza detailing the world of the baby boomers from 1946 to the 1970s.
As he proved in his first show, MacHomer, in which he voiced Shakespeare’s tale of the Scottish King using over fifty Simpson character’s voice, Miller is a master at mimicking voices. In BOOM he voices singers, politicians and television stars spanning the boomer decades. It is all framed by weaving narrated stories from his mother, father, and a black man who dated his mother when she was younger, through the social and political changes of the decades.
When he sings, Miller mimics such diverse voices Perry Como, Mick Jagger and Janis Joplin. He even gets the crowd to sing along with American Pie and peppers his history lessons with local jokes.
While the show is an obvious crowd pleaser – one happy boomer was trying to get people to sing a reprise of American Pie in the bathroom at intermission – it does get bogged down as the history lesson is old news; telling us that Buddy Holly died in a plane crash just doesn’t have the impact it might once have had. Miller is more successful with unfamiliar facts, such as the two black women, one Canadian, who had participated in bus protests before Rosa Parks.
The stories his three narrators tell are not emotionally involving resulting an experience that stays detached, with historical facts and pop culture references filling the two hours. As a result, the show fails to build to a satisfying climax.
The stagecraft is often breathtakingly clever. Miller spends most of his time inside a large see-through cylinder surrounded by a larger circular ramp designed by Yannik Larvee. On both of the surfaces are projected videos and animations by David Leclerc. In one exchange, Miller plays two characters talking to each other, and with Bruno Matte’s lighting it creates the illusion that the shadows are talking to each other. At other times Miller is projected on the outside of the screen as he performs, and archival footage is dubbed with his witty voice-overs.
Despite a narrative that fails to fully engage, the production design is dazzlingly original, and Miller is affable and talented. For many that seemed to be enough.
BOOM written and performed by Rick Miller. A Kidoons and Wyrd production presented by the Arts Club Theatre Company and the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival. On stage at the Arts Club Granville Island Stage (1585 Johnston St, Vancouver) until February 13. Visit http://artsclub.com for tickets and information.