It’s good to go out and see a live show. Especially since I profess to be a theatre expert! Well, the blog constantly reminds me of how seldom I get out. It doesn’t lie: from the reviews I’m averaging two shows a year. Part of the reason for starting the blog in the first place was to get me to go out more often. It hasn’t worked out that way. But on August 7, I had a chance to see Boom with my friend S. It was playing at the Belfry theatre down the street, a ten minute walk.
Boom is a one man show written, produced, and performed by Rick Miller. It follows the lives of three individuals growing up in post-war Europe, USA, and Canada. The performance is two hours and the time covered by the performance is over 20 years. One of the last musical cuts is ‘Born to be Wild’ by Steppenwolf which came out in 1968. The boomer generation proper is, I believe, those born from 1946 to 1964.
In a previous post, I had commented on how tight the margins must be in live theatre. In fact, I couldn’t really understand how some shows could even be profitable. Unless one had deep pockets or some kind of corporate or government funding, the one man show is the way to go for independent artists. We estimated the Friday crowd to be 100 strong. At $50 average per ticket, that translates to $5000. To rent the Belfry (one of the nicer of the smaller venues) along with a sound and lights team for a night must cost $2500, ball park. Remember, the Belfry, unlike the Blue Bridge Theatre, is union. So union rates. The artist is travelling, so allow another $300 for accommodations and food. That leaves him $2200. Not bad for one night, you say. But also remember, this is a Friday night show. Maybe half the people show up during the weekdays. And tickets are less as well on weekdays. To top it off: it took Miller two years of hard work to put Boom together. That has to be accounted for in the calculation as well. Theatre is a labour of love. Which is why I appreciate it. It’s real. They’re not doing it for the money. At least that’s what the back of the napkin calculations say!
It was a good choice for the three characters: one is a white Austrian fellow, one is his mom, and the last a black American musician. Since Miller plays all the roles, having a clearly differentiated set of characters is helpful! It adds to the perspective as well. Not only do we see the boomer years through the lens of different nationalities, races, and sexes, the action is spread over Canada, USA, and Europe.
There were two takeaways from this show for me. The first is that damn this guy is a good performer. He impersonates all the politicians, musicians, and actors. Dylan must have been one of the harder ones. I wasn’t quite sure if he played all the instruments, but he definitely plays guitar and harmonica. Maybe the piano… Probably. He’s talented.
The other takeaway is the history lesson. I didn’t know that the Soviets had been so far ahead in the space race. JFK I knew was assassinated. But I didn’t know about his brother Bobby. It was fun to see how things have changed too: the popularity of processed food. Nowadays you couldn’t pay someone enough to eat that stuff. He had ad footage and processed food was IT! The same with DDT. They had spray cans so that you could treat fleas on your dog. You don’t see that anymore! It reminds me: it will be like that with the things we hold precious today. Give it thirty years.
As entertaining as the show was, it was more a documentary than a drama. A drama is doing and acting. The story emerges from the doing and the acting. At least that’s my idea of drama. Boom is more narrative. Telling. Relating. Mind you, Miller intended it to be like that and it shows off his storytelling and impersonating skills. But I guess this is one of the weaknesses of one man shows: it’s hard to create drama with one actor. But I should end on a positive note. With one man shows–especially if the performer is also the writer–all the lines are spoken with perfect conviction. The delivery is splendid.
Until next time, I’m Edwin Wong, and I’ve been Doing Melpomene’s Work at the Belfry Theatre.