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article imageReview: BOOM delivers riveting 4-D theatre experience Special

By Burke Mudge     Jan 19, 2015 in Entertainment
Toronto - With 26 songs, 100 voices in 100 minutes and spanning a 25-year time period from 1945 to 1969, it is easy to see why this show is called “BOOM.”
It is an explosive, memorable journey through the tumultuous period of the post-war "boomers" where politics and culture collectively merged.Rick Miller is the star of this powerful one-man show and leads the audience through the story of BOOM by song and character in such a controlled but frenetic pace, you don’t want to blink as you may just miss something.
In the world of the arts folks often use the phrase "tour de force" more than a little too often, but in this case, there’s no other way to describe the performance — Miller is truly that. The multi-award winning performer (who started out studying architecture is also a writer/director/actor/musician and educator) has managed to create a staggeringly original work that is relentless in its tempo and shows us in many ways, the history of ourselves.
At first, the stage set seems sparse and minimalistic inside the theatre. At the centre of the stage there is a substantially sized, almost tubular netting known as a scrim as the most dominant visible set piece. It is draped over a circular area from floor to ceiling like a transparent cloth shaped like a large silo. Around this netted area, is what appears to be a circular stage that is angled upwards so the audience can see it more clearly and later in the show we see how it is used to great visual effect. When the show begins we immediately see the technical complexities that await as a video is projected onto the scrim and unbeknownst to the audience at first, it is Rick Miller in fact doing the voices of the various characters on screen.
As mentioned, BOOM is a story about that unique generation known as the baby-boomers and Miller (who also wrote and directed this show - see http://boomshow.ca/ for more background details) tells this story, as uniquely and artistically as one possibly could, using every medium and every colour on the painter’s palette. There are some aspects of his own history involved in the BOOM storyline itself as he is able to recount from his father’s perspective, what life was like in that time for people immigrating to Montreal from Vienna. Miller weaves in other narratives and dances back and forth, almost in mid-sentence sometimes from one story’s perspective to another character’s story utilizing different accents, different races, different genders and pulling it off convincingly and seamlessly. BOOM has been described as a living, breathing time capsule and the use of the scrim netting helps beautifully achieve exactly that. The interaction between the actor and the technology is balanced so they are both used for optimal story-telling purposes as the audience is constantly engaged. The various mediums used range from displaying photographs, real-time video, images and footage from dozens of iconic moments in history all throughout the show. This is another thing unique about this one man show, for most of the performance, Miller is actually inside the netted space yet the audience never feels detached from the show, it rather feels like a 4-D experience.
Sometimes, the most intense moments were not necessarily the vivid archival footage of a major world event that took place in the epoch covered, but it was the clever and inventive use of shadows and lighting. Using the scrim, Miller and his team (there are 12 credits listed for this show) managed to somehow evoke a towering shadowy 15-foot-high figure of a talking Winston Churchill. On top of the dozens and dozens of characters, nailing their mannerisms and accents was just one more feat accomplished as the story of BOOM is always moved forward in time by the main storylines.
Also punctuating the major moments in history are also some very humorous references to the power the media and advertising have had culturally and economically, guiding us towards a consumer-dominated society. Seeing the television make its entrance into the sphere of modern life was a fascinating aspect of the history on display as it continues to be a force, shaping every aspect of life to this day. Old commercials that seem so preposterous but once actually believed are flashed in on the scrim as it informs the era of time being covered perfectly and to great comic effect.
What makes this show impactful and complete is of course the music that one could see grow and emerge in a new light from post-World War II to late 1960’s psychedelic rock, rock & roll and electric folk music all recognizable as the soundtrack to our lives. Miller here also, sings parts of 26 songs that captured time periods ranging from the Beatles, Elvis, Janis Joplin, Perry Como, Joni Mitchell and The Who to name a few — all done note perfect.
Not surprisingly at the end of the show the completely full Panasonic Theatre crowd were on their feet in appreciation of such a magnificent, multifaceted performance.
There was also an unexpected opportunity for the audience to interact with Miller for an informal "talkback" with the actor. At this time I had the opportunity to ask Miller exactly how long it took to put a production like this together given the unusual logistics of such an operation? He readily replied, “About three years from the initial idea to actually beginning to create the show.” Miller has been asked in the past, what was it about this era that fascinated him and why did he want to tell this particular story? He has stated “because I think we can learn about ourselves today if we just look back and see the cycles and patterns of history. BOOM is full of circles and spiraling elements in order to reinforce just that: History repeats itself, and we become more like our parents than we wish to think.”
If Torontonians have not somehow figured it out by now, this is a world-class city filled with world-class talent and we need not venture beyond our own backyard to recognize this fact. Miller himself was recently given a unique honour by Entertainment Weekly calling him one of the 100 most creative people alive today.” After watching BOOM, you will soon see why this is one of the most creative, important stage shows right now in Toronto, onstage only until February 1, 2015. Website: http://boomshow.ca/
More about panasonic theatre, Arts, one man show, Toronto
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