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Print Version

Boomers Behaving Badly
Written by & starring Jane Keller
with Michael Nicholas Williams on the Piano
Directed by KC Kelly

at Circa Two, Wellington
From 24 May 2011 to 11 Jun 2011
[1hr 30min, incl. interval]

Reviewed by Michael Wray, 25 May 2011

 If you were born within the years 1946 to 1964, you are classified as a baby boomer. Apparently, this is the generation that thought they would stay forever young … Don't we all? The falsehood of this hope struck Jane Keller “like a ton of bricks” when she received an invitation to her 40th high school reunion last year and lead to the creation of this show.

Directed by KC Kelly, the show is simple, light-hearted musical entertainment; safe and unchallenging. The song selection is quite obscure; this is not a sing-along. One song is from English comedian Victoria Wood, but the others were all new to me and I suspect will be to you too. This is not a bad thing. With the songs moving between comedy and emotional rendition, it makes you pay close attention to the lyrics.

As segues between songs, Keller amuses us with tales that take us from high school to present day. Whether the stories have been written to fit the song selection or the songs picked to fit the stories is up for debate, but it provides an opportunity for her to interact with the audience and set a light, slightly self-mocking tone.

Keller's performance is just right for the venue and show. No microphones, just her excellent voice with the piano. She moves between making us laugh and feel deeper emotions with ease.

The first half takes us back to school, the junior prom, through to marriage and eventually a happy divorce. It starts with humour: the perils of physical education, the awkwardness of which school-friends choose to stay in touch (the ones you didn't like much) and dealing with dyslexia. The mood softens when it comes to finding a date for junior prom or defending choices, such as being a housewife voluntarily and feeling undervalued as a result.

After the interval, we find divorcees enjoying their freedom by visiting Paris and Brazil. The comedy is back and bold, before we once again move into melancholy territory for a while. Comedy returns with a vengeance with cougars, GILFs, male baldness and the pleasure of one's own company closing the second half.

Throughout, the lighting design from Deb McGuire complements the changing tones.

Michael Nicholas Williams accompanies on piano, providing a few backing vocals and, where required, cues and prompts. It's a shame he mostly has his back to us, but he takes his opportunity to act along with the fun when allowed.

Other than this being a time when baby boomers are approaching retirement age, triggering a nostalgic where-did-the-years-go mood, there's nothing generation-specific or uniquely baby boomerish about the show.

Roll forward a decade or so and the show could easily be retitled to fit generation X. In the meantime, the gen X brigade should leave their gen Ys at home to sit their gen Zs, and take their baby boomer parents out for a little musical nostalgia.
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 Vicki Thorpe
 Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] (The Dominion Post);
 Gail Pittaway