"Boomermania", at the El Portal Theatre, inserts new lyrics into a slew of classic pop songs from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. The two-hour musical has no obvious story, and six characters, described in the program as Man 1, Man 2, and Man 3, and Woman 1, Woman 2, and Woman 3. After it's over, you will depart the theater no more or less wise than when you entered.
Yet despite its lack of ambition, "Boomermania" plays quite well, combining songs such as "Stay", "Mony, Mony", "I Can't Help Myself", The Beat Goes On", "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Staying Alive", with economical, engaging choreography, and seductively self-satisfying performances from each cast member. Most of the songs spoof rampant consumerism -- frozen food, fast food, big television sets - pop culture fads, disco above all, and, student protests. The creators of "Boomermania", Debbie Kasper and Pat Sierchio, have substituted several clever rhymes for lyrics that will be known by the majority of audience members 50 or over, and probably many younger ones as well.
Kasper and Sierchio risk inciting a riot by turning Bob Dylan's "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" into a song about cell phones (rhymes with "stoned") but the night I attended, no one in the audience booed or walked out. On the other hand, they deserve the highest praise for choosing the "Na, Na, Na, Na" opening from "Land of a Thousand Dances" for the audience sing-a-long; that version was first recorded by East LA's own Cannibal and the Headhunters in 1965. The show is fast-paced and loud, like bubblegum hits of the 1960s and early 1970s. On occasion, it can be too much, especially the spoken interludes involving whiny teen-agers and their clueless parents. At these times, we are especially grateful when the excellent, three-piece group plays the opening bars of another familiar song, and the actors can go back to being singers and dancers.
The only number that should be immediately removed from "Boomermania" is a straightforward rendering of the mournful ballad "Reflections", which occurs as the obvious images - Dallas, Vietnam, Memphis, the Ambassador Hotel, race riots, Chicago, Woodstock - are projected on a screen above the stage. The somber tone and message are so different from the rest of the two-hour production that one wonders if "Reflections" was added at the insistence of a nervous producer, who wanted to ensure that politics was not overlooked.
Boomermania's superb cast consists of Daniel Amerman (#1 man), Paul Lange (#2), Dylan Vox (#3), Susan Huckle (woman #1), Kimberly Wood (#2), and Alison Friedman (#3). The choreographer is Edward Carignan; Mary Ekler, who plays keyboards in the accompanying band, also serves as musical director.
"Boomermania" runs Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m. through May 15th. Tickets are $42 for all performances.
The El Portal Forum Theatre is located at 5269 Lankershim Boulevard, North Hollywood.
For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit www.elportaltheatre.com