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vancouverplays review


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— Joani Bye in Cruisin’ with the Boomers

by Voni Grindler and Andy Thoma
Jupiter Productions
Revue Stage, Granville Island
July 16-27
$39 at

Cruisin’ with the Boomers is like an extended jam session with six of Vancouver’s best musicians playing your favourite songs from 1967-77. Rather than create an artificial dramatic structure as an excuse for the songs, as is so often the case with musical revues, they simply narrate some of the key historical and musical events of the period so there’s a rough contextual frame. Then they just play and sing—with a few costume changes along the way—and they’re terrific.

A couple of other important things this show has going for it: they never send up the songs. They take the music as seriously as we did when we were hearing it for the first time, living inside it and the culture it reflected. And their choice of songs is nearly impeccable. The playlist would make the “Best of …” for anyone who lived through those times and still cares about these tunes. Which means, essentially, the “boomers” of the title. There’s a lot of gray hair in the audience.

There’s quite a bit of gray on the players, too, but no sign that their talents have been compromised by a little age. Damn, they’re good. They’re the boomers of the title as well, and part of the pleasure of this show comes from the obvious pleasure the players are having.

Musical director Dave Pickell on keyboards provides the bulk of the narration and does little singing, but rocks out on piano on an Elton John medley. At the other end of the stage, lead guitarist Tim Porter gets to show his great chops on “The Thrill Is Gone,” ”Purple Haze,” and “Riders on the Storm,” among others.

Dead centre, under the peace sign, big-voiced drummer Peter Padden is featured on Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” in a duet with Joanie Bye, who plays rhythm guitar and has some of the show’s prime solos: Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart,” a searing “Disco Inferno,” and a gorgeous riff on Joanie Mitchell’s mature remake of “Both Sides Now.”

Linda Kidder plays bass and sometimes drums, and kills “White Rabbit.” Putting aside his guitar and harmonica, Oliver Conway charms with his Jagger tribute on the Stones’ “Get Off of My Cloud.”

Many of the show’s best moments are the group numbers, showing off Bye’s vocal arrangements and the ensemble’s instrumental skills: a great medley of Beatles’ tunes, a terrific version of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the show’s closer, Jackie DeShannon’s “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” and the encore, “Imagine.” Those last two capture the theme of the show: the Sixties dream of making a better world.

Kudos to the players, producer/director Voni Grindler, choreographer Viktoria Langton, and the entire Jupiter team for reminding us what glorious musical times they were.

Jerry Wasserman















Jerry Wasserman