With countless radio stations dedicated to the music of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, the recent release of the entire Beatles catalogue on iTunes, and even covers ofÂ oldies like “River Deep, Mountain High” on the popular TV show Glee, the music that defines the Baby Boomer generation is perhaps as widespread in 2011 as it has ever been.
This is why Debbie Kasper and Pat Sierchio, co-writers and directors of the new musical Boomermania, are confident in their show’s relatability. “You don’t have to be from Oklahoma to love Oklahoma!“ says Kasper, explaining why she thinks all generations will be drawn to the Boomer-themed musical.
Kasper and Sierchio, who are in a relationship, became inspired to write a musical about their generation after throwing a ’60s-themed party in 2007. “We told everybody we knew to come dressed as the ’60s and people really took it to heart. We had everything from conscientious objectors to protestors to the Fonz,” says Kasper.
People responded so well to the party Kasper and Sierchio felt the need to create something on a larger scale. “Instead of creating a party for people to come to, we thought what if we can create a theatrical event that would have the same effect,” explains Sierchio.
Both Kasper and Sierchio are multi-faceted individuals. Kasper has traversed nearly all aspects of the theater industry as a writer, director, actress and comedienne. She is also a voiceover actress, comedy coach and humor author.Â As a television writer sheÂ garneredÂ two Emmy nominations for her work on the Rosie O’Donnell Show.
Sierchio comes from a different yet equally diverse background, having found success as a writer, producer, director and pop-culture historian. He worked with Kasper on the successful show Self-Help: The Comedy — she starred and he produced and directed. “This is the first time I have written anything for the theater,” says Sierchio of Boomermania.
Sierchio and Kasper brainstormed ideas for the musical as they drove across the country. “Debbie had to go work back east, so to get there we took a car instead of flying,” says Sierchio. “In the car we listened to a lot of ’50s, ’60s and ’70s music and started reminiscing,” he says. “That music represented the soundtrack to our youth. And that’s part of the reason we wanted that particular music in there: so it would reach people and touch them on that level,” he explains.
The pair tackled the task of finding a creative way to encapsulate the decades that span the Baby Boomer experience.Â Rather than following a cast of characters through their lives, the plot is event driven, Kasper explains. “We wanted to feature certain events, so we chose vignettes to highlight those events as opposed to being confined to following a Baby Boomer growing up,” she says.
The premise of the musical provides a framework for these vignettes. “It takes place in the future. A kid finds a time capsule and does a show-and-tell presentation to his class, misinterpreting everything he finds in the capsule. His teacher sends the entire classroom, which is really the audience, back in time to show them who the Baby Boomers were,” Kasper says. Seventeen vignettes within the show capture different events across the decades including the summer of love, the disco era, Woodstock and the first moon landing. “This is really a historical piece. Not in a dreary way but as a musical history tour,” Kasper says.
Kasper and Sierchio took popular songs from each decade and re-wrote the lyrics to create parodies for each scene. For instance, Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” became “Protest.”
“We wrote all the lyrics ourselves,” says Sierchio of the endeavor. Kasper credits Sierchio’s musical ability for the successful completion of the parodies. “He understands music on a level I can only dream about one day,” she says.
“My ability to write parody songs comes from being a child and listening to Allan Sherman records and reading Mad Magazine,” says Sierchio of his talent for parody. HisÂ time as an employee at Rhino Records was also helpful, he says. Even with this experience, the task was not easy. “We have a newfound respect for writing parody lyrics,” says Kasper. “It is not easy to find the right song to portray the right event, then to find a song that has enough syllables in it to get the story across,” she says.
In order to express this story visually as well as audibly, the production relies heavily upon costume; there are about 85 costumes and 65 wigs in the show. Sierchio laughs at these impressive numbers. “The costumes have their own contracts. There are so many of them they formed their own union!” he jokes.
Kasper and Sierchio emphasize that the show’s comedy does not detract from the more solemn truths about events that occurred across these decades. “There were a lot of things that happened during those years that were not so much fun or so joyous. We thought it would be remiss not to address them,” Sierchio says.
“It’s not always going to be a joke. It’s going for the truth and finding out what’s funny about the truth,” Kasper explains. Sierchio agrees. “There’s a lot of truth even in the comedy,” he says.
From Boomermania’s inception at a ’60s themed party to its debut at the El Portal Forum Theatre in North Hollywood, Kasper’s and Sierchio’s goals have remained the same. “I love making people laugh,” says Kasper. “I like changing people’s energy for the day; exchanging energy with people to change their life for that moment.”
Boomermania, produced by Richard Anthony Gremo for Boomermania Productions, opens Feb. 11; plays Thur.-Sat., 8 pm; Sun., 3 pm; through March 27. Tickets: $42. El Portal Forum Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; 866.811.4111 or elportaltheatre.com and boomermaniathemusical.com.