Baby Boomer (Theatreroo)
Twelfth Night Basement
May 15 – September 11
Theatreroo’s performance space in the basement of Twelfth Night is one of the city’s hidden away nooks and cranny venues that turns out to be a gem of a find, with before show tunes of ‘Mac The Knife’ and Elvis et al setting the tone of the 60-minute pub theatre show to follow. And then we are in the ‘60s of Clarry Evans and Denny Lawrence’s “Baby Boomer” as Tom (TravisHolmes) is about to land back home to Brisbane, having been away for a few years, and thus wondering if the big sleepy country town has changed as much as he has.
Things move quickly as rather than staying in his narrative, a series of short songs and snippets take us through what life was like for the generation named Baby Boomer by Time magazine. Some of these early songs are very catchy. ‘When I Grow Up’, for example, is a peppy recap of some of era’s icons as they feature in the optimistic ambitions of the characters.
Another early highlight comes courtesy of a folkish song about the expanded consciousness that comes from smoking dope, which sees Matt Newnham as ‘Doc’ bringing his guitar onto stage. But often we are left wanting more and deserved applause that comes at short intervals between each number means it takes longer to settle into the show’s rhythm and be guided as to Tom’s narrative, which sees the theatre troupe member moving from the politics of student protest to an expanded horizon life overseas to avoid conscription, or put distance between him and Fran (McKiera Cumming), a relationship so subtly suggested that we are barely aware of it until this declaration. And as Tom and his friends leave adolescence behind for the volatile Cold War times to come, we find ourselves moved from the personal to the political frame of protest with reminder of the trauma of the turbulent time and experiences of conscripts in Vietnam.
Just as it covers many themes, the musical numbers of “Baby Boomer” capture an array of the era’s musical styles, which adds interest. And the performers are all excellent with pleasant and powerful vocals. Tomer Dimanstein seamlessly takes us from the sounds of the ‘50s crooners of Tom’s mother’s favour to a dramatic declaration about the realities of the fate of so many in the Vietnam conflict.
Harmony Breen and McKeira Cumming bring a lovely harmony when uniting in song about being a 1960s girl desiring self-determination in a male-dominated world and Holmes’s strong vocals are especially showcased in his impressive hold of a note in discovery of his voice while seeking inspiration to write his great Australian novel far away in Amsterdam. Musical numbers are dynamically realised by a live band and the story is supported by an array of era-appropriate costumes (Denise Toogood and Desley Macpherson), quickly changed between its many scenes.
Theatreoo does Brisbane stories and if “Baby Boomer” is any indication, they do them well. While it is story of a generation in time, it is also one of a cherished, nostalgic place. And while it captures the sensibility of the era’s kaleidoscopic emotions, it would be great to see the stories of its featured personalities explored in finer detail with expanse of the show beyond its swift running time.