It wasn’t as if Baby Boomers had no serious problems to deal with, or felt less connected to pop music of the time.
But as actor, musician and playwright Rick Miller expertly shows us in Boom X, the follow-up theatrical project to Boom, those considered part of Generation X experienced the effects of political, cultural and technological change perhaps more than any other generation in the 20th century.
Boomers made up the majority of the audience at the Belfry Theatre on opening night. But for Gen Xers in thew crowd (born roughly 1964 to 1985), and some of us late boomers, it was a chance to reminisce about the societal changes that carried us like a wave through the early parts of our lives.
Miller, the director and solo performer in Boom X, uses a terrific multimedia production, along with impressive quick-change musical impersonations of stars ranging from Neil Young and Michael Jackson to Freddie Mercury and Kurt Cobain, to illustrate how Gen Xers frequently found themselves searching for themselves. Divorce was more common – his own parents split up and remarried – and TV, especially MTV in the 1980s, became the after-school babysitter and impression-maker in many households.
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This entertaining presentation is partly his personal story – he was born in 1970 – and partly told through a series of clever “live” interviews with four individuals who appear on a curtain-screen, centre stage. He asks and answers the questions, mimicking their voices and characters, and later uses those characters to keep the story moving, when not telling his own story.
Whether using his own voice and experiences to make his points, or those of other people, Miller does a great job showing how changes to Western society such as more working moms, political upheaval in the world and the explosion of TV advertising created a very different era than the Baby Boomers had to grow up in. He, like many others, sought refuge in rebellious music: early on it was punk and disco, later it was grunge, rap and hip-hop.
Miller’s energy on stage, dashing between downstage and the raised centre stage behind the curtains, belting out songs and handling every single piece of dialogue, left audience members breathless at times. Those working with him on his set and lighting effects deserve great kudos as well, especially video and projection co-designers Nicolas Dostie and Irina Litvinenko, whose creative efforts helped make this one-man show seem larger than life.
One element that was a bit distracting was the historic headlines that rolled across the curtain-screen. One’s eyes often darted between the words and Miller’s movements on stage, as it was difficult at times to know where to look.
Miller gave us some value-added after the show, sitting on the stage and answering questions from the audience, then graciously chatted with people in the lounge afterward. Such extra speaking from this talented performer may be rare on this run – his show plays nightly (except Mondays) through Aug. 18, with two shows on Saturdays and Aug. 14.