One big BOOMing theatrical experience! BOOM opens the Citadel Theatre’s 50th season
Review of BOOM by Graham Hicks
Citadel Theatre, Shoctor Stage,
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Sept. 24 to Oct. 11, 2015
Review by GRAHAM HICKS
Who is this Rick Miller, and why is he so ridiculously talented?
How can one actor, in a one-man show, enthrall a 681-strong audience for two hours with an intermission?
Why would the Citadel Theatre’s artistic director Bob Baker, a man who’s both a shrewd judge of theatrical quality and who understands his audience better than anybody in Canadian theatre, use a one-man show to launch its stellar, big-deal 50th season celebration?
BOOM!!! BOOM!!! BOOM!!!
Because Bob Baker understands that Rick Miller is an affable genius – a story teller, musician, composer, historian, humourist, impressionist, ventriloquist, actor, writer, director.
And that’s before weighing up his greatest gift of all: An understanding, a brilliant understanding, of bringing state-of-the-art stage and performance technology – lasers, 3-D holograms, ever-changing virtual sets, video clips, home-movies, black-and-white pictures summoned out of the air – to the stage. Not to be clever, but, as no other show on the Shoctor Stage has ever done with such finesse, to advance his story.
And what an ambitious, over-arching story it is, infotainment taken to new levels of quality and art, the sweep of North American and world history, 25 years from the end of World War II to the end of the ‘60s, from Fat Man and Little Boy, to GIs returning home, the Cold War, the Korea War, the Vietnam war, the Bay of Pigs, the Kennedys, the space race, Martin Luther King, the dreadful assassinations, the hippies, the music from Perry Como to Hank Williams to Steppenwolf, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan to the Beatles.
How we have all FORGOTTEN these tumultuous decades! What a magnificent job Miller does in bringing it all back home, to our narcissistic selves who seem to forget anything that happened 10 years or longer in the past. Auschwitz? What’s Auschwitz?
But it’s all told – through Miller and his media/virtual cast – in a relaxed, sitting-around-the-living-room kind of way … except this living room is darkened for theatrical effect and out of technological necessity, full of story-telling aids you only expect in Star Trek or Star Wars films.
And his narrative device is intensely personal.
His central character – a fictionalized version of himself – sets up the show with initial filmed scenes of Rick approaching three baby-boomer individuals, his mother, a black American-Canadian blues-playing draft-dodger, and a life-loving Austrian-Canadian, to tell their life stories.
The three personal stories seamlessly intertwine with the historical facts and themes, placing them in personal context. Miller, usually in the centre of the virtual set within (as much as one can be within an enclosure made of light) a giant translucent whitish hologram tube, moves so effortlessly from the personal stories up on film, to the historical clips, to his own observations and humourous asides of the era.
It’s only about 10 minutes into the show when the audience realizes all the voices (besides Miller) are not pre-recorded … but are being done, ventriloquist-like like, Andre Philippe Gagnon-like, by Miller himself!
The voices themselves are a tour de force, but they are but one tour-de-force among a never-ending line of tour-de-forces in this show.
What’s equally fascinating – amplified by the new stage technologies being used here, today, is Miller’s reporting of the astounding development of consumer technology – coupled with very funny advertisements of the same from the eras. The television, the proliferation of cars, the telephone, TV dinners, mass production.
This show ought to be rambling, disconnected, drowning in detail.
But it is not.
It is crisp and clear and tightly, tightly edited.
The only looseness was Miller’s obvious love of doing ‘60s musical impressions from Elvis to Janis to Roger Daltrey to Steppenwolf to John Lennon – ‘bout the only aspect of this show that became slightly wearisome.
And the end – the finale to the three personal stories that start as unconnected, very different tales of three very different Canadians – is a total surprise that pulls the whole darned show into an “aha” moment – so THAT’s why this happened and that happened in their personal lives.
Beautiful, fabulous, wondrous show - “sick” as the generation now four or five time removed from this tale’s characters would say in admiration.
Not to be missed!