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'Boomers' Improves With Age

February 03, 1996|NANCY CHURNIN

CORONADO — Baby Boomers are like the 800-pound gorilla in the bar. Where do they sit? Anywhere they want to. When you're 75 million strong--the largest generation in recorded U.S. history--your protests and passions can change the way the world looks at wars and fashion, music, money and love.

Boomers have one of their own as president--Bill Clinton. They also have their own halcyon musical revue--"Boomers"--which plays at Lamb's Players Theatre through Sunday.

The show's cocreators, Lamb's resident members Kerry Meads and Vanda Eggington, are boomers themselves who premiered the show at the company's old home in National City in 1993.

It was popular then--a musical trip down memory lane, narrated by a "professor" lecturing on the period as six performers took turns belting and harmonizing on snippets of hits from the past four decades. There's some great music out there, and this show doesn't miss much of it.

As a show, "Boomers" is better now. Meads and Eggington have fleshed out the characters: Using quick but pointed interviews, monologues and group discussions, six recognizable types emerge:

* Katherine (Diane Addis), the successful career woman who has been "dating" for 27 years (think Heidi in "The Heidi Chronicles");

* Miles (Bill Doyle), the drug alum who lost a few brain cells on his psychedelic journeys;

* Bob (Paul Eggington), the activist;

* Roxie (Kathi Gibbs), the African American Baptist;

* Susan (Linda Libby), the single mother who ruefully realizes that she'll never be able to give her children the opportunities her parents gave her;

* Preston (Brian Trent), the barely boomer, born on the cusp of the period, who belittles the self-importance of the others.

The show draws on the nostalgic musical gold mine that fueled such hit musical revues as "Beehive" and "Forever Plaid." In lieu of those shows' great costuming and special effects, "Boomers" offers us stories, affectingly told by an engaging cast, largely intact from the 1993 production (Brian Trent replaces Michael Hickey from the original.)

Under Vanda Eggington's musical direction, the voices, too, are uniformly excellent, with the women being particular stand-outs. The infectiously energetic Libby stops the show with a dead-on impression of Jean Stapleton's Edith Bunker in the "All in the Family" theme song, and Gibbs gets things rocking with "Respect." Addis, with a controlled and lovely timbre, does a very tender version of Janis Ian's "At 17."

The men are at their best responding to the women musically. In nicely orchestrated comic music dialogues, amusingly choreographed by Pamela Turner, the women grab the men with a possessive "My Guy," while the fellows respond, terrified, with "Chains."

There's a sly cleverness to the conception, artfully directed by Meads to be a crowd-pleaser. Although the show's focus clearly is on the baby boomers, it opens with the Professor (Doug Waldo) introducing romantic songs of their parents' generation, also sung by the "Boomers" ensemble. This is ostensibly to show the mood the boomers were conceived in, but it also activates the memory juices of older audience members.

The show reaches to those younger than baby boomers through the character born at the tail-end of the boom-generation range. Like them, Preston is really too young to remember what the others do, yet he passes through the same history while the show brings us musically up to the present.

It's an inclusive, feel-good romp. And that's, ultimately, the strength and weakness of "Boomers." The one thing you shouldn't look for here is unresolved tensions.

Today's America may be bloodied by racial confusion and tension, angered pro and con about legislated morality and paralyzed by agonizing questions about military right and wrong. But while this show latches onto some checkpoints of pain from these very interesting times, it ends inevitably, all the characters harmonizing as well personally as they do musically.

If only such harmony came as easily in real life.

* "Boomers," Lamb's Players Theatre, 1142 Orange Ave., Coronado. Tuesdays-Thursdays, Sundays, 7:30 p.m.; Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays-Sundays, 2 p.m. Ends Sunday. $19-$28. (619) 437-0600. Running time: 2 hours, 17 minutes.

Diane Addis: Katherine

Bill Doyle: Miles

Paul Eggington: Bob

Kathi Gibbs: Roxie

Linda Libby: Susan

Brian Trent: Preston

Doug Waldo: Professor

A Lamb's Players Theatre production of a musical revue by Kerry Meads and Vanda Eggington. Directed by Kerry Meads. Musical direction: Vanda Eggington. Choreography: Pamela Turner. Sets: Mike Buckley. Costumes: Veronica Murphy. Lights: Nathan Peirson. Stage manager: Jenny Lynn.

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