Boomermania

Ben Miles Reviews - Theater
Print

Boomermania! Let’s break it down: The “Boomer” portion of that title phrase refers to the Baby Boom Generation (people born between 1946 and 1964). The titular “mania” section of Debbie Kasper and Pat Sierchio’s musical comedy—Boomermania, in North Hollywood, through July 24—suggests the sort of mass madness that comes to mind when we think of a phenomenon called Beatlemania.

Boomermania is a manic parody of all things “Boomer.” Children are portrayed as being constantly battered by TV riddles and mind-numbing commercial slogans—“I’m a Pepper”? “You’re a Pepper”? Period programming such as Bonanza and I Dream of Jeannie are presented as tubed entertainment’s answer to comfort food: reassuring but not particularly nourishing.

Cleverly (and sometimes not so cleverly), Kasper and Sierchio bring lyrics to their book that are musically aligned to the tuneful melodies of the doo wop 50s, the salacious 60s, and the selfish 70s. Both Kasper and Sierchio lend patchy direction to the proceedings, with Mary Ekler providing spot-on orchestrations and vocal arrangements, and Edward Carigan creating crafty choreography, which nicely showcases the able six member cast.

Though Boomermania may not be quite ready for either Broadway or prime time, it is slightly more than two-hours of frenzied fun that all generations are more-or-less likely to enjoy. Melodies of classic rock ‘n roll songs are loaded-up with wordplay and rhymes that are unique to Boomermania. Fans of shows such as Menopause: The Musical may recognize the formula. For instance, instead of Bob Dylan inveighing, “Everybody Must Get Stoned,” we have the ensemble doing a number they call “Everybody Must Get Phoned” (a paean to the ubiquity of electronic communication—even back-in-the-day).

Similarly, yesteryear’s top-forty lists are combed in such a way that “Stay,” “The Beat Goes On,” and “Staying Alive” all become conveyers of refrains that sound like oldies standards but are renewed, if not exactly refreshed, by simple rewordings.  The vaguely trite Temptations’ tune, “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch,” for example, becomes the obnoxious “Sugar Pops, Cap ’n Crunch”—supposedly sung by Romper Room acolytes on a sugar high, ugh!

In addition to the song and dance shenanigans, Boomermania is also stuffed with sketch-comedy. One notably amusing bit is a send-up of Masterpiece Theatre, wherein a narrator (the perfectly-pitched Benjamin Goldsmith) gives a dramatic interpretation of a “Dick and Jane” reader (“Run Dick…Run Jane…See Spot run…”).

Indeed, for all the groaners embedded in a script that at times seems desperate for genuine wit, it is the ensemble of six performers (besides the deadpanned Goldsmith, there is Daniel Amerman, Dylan Vox, Sarah Weismer, Kimberly Wood, and Alison Friedman) and the trio of musicians (Mary Ekler, Randy Landas, and Jim McCarty)—who play with remarkable energy and grace—that make this collective effort a worthy, albeit checkered, theatrical experience. Add the complex and inventive scenic and lighting designs of David S. Goldstein, as well as Erica D. Schwartz’s vast array of era costuming, and there is a lot of show in the busy-ness that is Boomermania.

Boomermania continues at the El Portal Theatre—5269 Lankershim Boulevard, North Hollywood—through July 24. Show times are at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Matinees are at 3 p.m. on Sundays. For reservations dial (866) 811-4111. For online ticketing and further information, visit www.elportaltheatre.com.