Theater Calgary’s BOOM YZ concludes political, musical and family history trilogy


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The sounds Rick Miller makes in Calgary are heard around the world.

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In 2014, Theater Calgary presented Miller’s BOOM, its multimedia tribute to the Baby Boom generation, at the High Performance Rodeo.

The concept for the show was commissioned by the Stratford Festival, but when there was a change of administration Stratford didn’t want it anymore, so Miller called TC’s artistic director at the time, Dennis Garnham, who agreed to present him first at High Performance Rodeo and then as part of TC’s 2016 season.

Over the next seven years, BOOM, Miller’s tribute to music, politics, entertainment, culture, technology and world-defining events, has recorded more than 400 performances around the world, most recent in Taiwan.

In 2018 Miller premiered a sequel, BOOM X, at Theater Calgary and now he’s back to complete his trilogy with BOOM YZ, which will run at the Max Bell Theater in Arts Commons through November 7th.

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“I feel very comfortable in Calgary and especially Theater Calgary because of the trust they have in me and in BOOM,” says Miller, who points out that “my family is at the heart of these three shows” .

Rick Miller appears in the last installment of Boom.
Rick Miller appears in the last installment of Boom. Photo by Michael Cooper /jpg

In BOOM, Miller told the story of the two men in his mother’s life, and in BOOM X, in addition to his wife and half-sister, he looked at the world through the eyes of one of the his mentors and a friend. His daughter Vivian is the central character of BOOM YZ.

“What you see in each of the shows is the Millers are just another family navigating the ups and downs, ups and downs of the past 75 years.

“Vivian is 18 years old. We’re in a car together and you’ll know why, but only at the end of the show. We’re going to get a glimpse into Vivian’s life and experiences. Of the 100 characters I play in this new 100 minute show, there are 12 Millennial characters who offer their take on things.

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Miller says he uses Vivian and the Millennial Figures “to help older members of the audience understand the perspectives of this current generation, and hopefully take their concerns seriously.

“I want the generations to listen to each other. BOOM YZ is an intergenerational listening and learning experience.

Miller’s BOOM and BOOM X have been praised for their dazzling technical genius, but he says they’re much more than glitz and flash.

“Again, there is nostalgia, spectacle and theatricality but there is also heart, humanity and humor. This is why the shows have universal appeal.

Miller is especially happy to be able to fly in BOOM YZ.

“I’m in the air to represent how landless and floating so many of us feel most of the time.

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“The other thing unique to BOOM YZ is an interactive element. There are three possible endings to the show. There are utopian, status quo and dystopian endings and the public can vote for whatever they want. In every performance, even I will not know what end we will have until the votes are counted.

With the addition of BOOM YZ, Miller’s trilogy spans 75 years of global and family history. He envisions a time when all three shows will be available to be viewed in succession or as a single marathon, but they will all be independent. “You don’t need to have seen BOOM or BOOM X to enjoy BOOM YZ. It is his own experience.

“What should be reassuring about these shows is that we go around in circles in life. This horrible moral panic in which we find ourselves now is not something unique. We have been here before and we have triumphed.

Miller says he has consciously worked to make BOOM YZ a unique experience, saying it’s what people deserve after 20 months “without a live theater experience.”

The Theater Calgary presentation of BOOM YZ runs Tuesday through Sunday at the Max Bell Theater with evening shows at 7:30 p.m. and mornings at 2:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at theatrecalgary.com or by calling 403-294-7447.

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