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Theatre Review: MacHomer just short of a homer. Maybe third base.

I want to make out with Rick Miller in a big way.

That is, only if he's doing his Ned Flanders. I just can't giddily get-tily enough of that hiddily hoddily hunk. On second thought, maybe I'll ask Miller to do Sherri and Terri instead. Ever since my first Sweet Valley Girls book in grade three, I've had a thing for prepubescent twin girls. (Did I just say that out loud? D'oh!)

Or, better yet (!), he can alternate between all aforementioned Springfieldians whilst engaged in our passionate nookiefest, allowing me to pretend that I am with all three of those sexy beasts of varying shades of yellow.

Swoon.

Hey, a girl can dream, can't she?

Miller, the creator and star of MacHomer, is a vocal acrobat extraordinaire. His one-man show, on now at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, is a goofy, irreverent piece of theatre. It tells the story of Shakespeare's famous tragedy--keeping 75 percent of the original dialogue, no less--using characters from Matt Groening's hit show. The concept materialized back in 1995, when Miller was in a production of Macbeth. As he was playing the (ahem) key part of Murderer #2, he found himself with a lot of idle time backstage. Ever the productive thespian, Miller concocted a parody of the play using The Simpsons, which was at the heyday of its popularity. He's been touring the world with it ever since.

In the words of our favourite wise-cracking Simpson, "aye carumba!"

Bringing Macbeth to a society more Bart than Bard ain't easy, but Miller pulls it off. Shakespeare's works and The Simpsons, though seemingly dissimilar on all fronts, share more in common than initial assessments may suggest. Both consistently factor social commentary into their scripts and both have played significant roles in the pop culture of their respective times.

Over the course of 75 minutes, Miller does the voices of no fewer than 50 characters, not all of which are limited to the denizens of Springfield. Cameos from George W. Bush, OJ Simpson, Rod Stewart, Annie Lennox and Shrek, amongst others, add excitement and laughs.

The pace is fast-and-furious; after all, Miller may change characters six times over the course of a quick minute, but momentum begins to droop at the halfway point. Relying heavily on Homerisms as comedic crutches isn't a viable tactic, and the beer, pizza and doughnut jokes grow stale. Miller admits it himself: it's a one-gag concept stretched out over an hour and 15 minutes. It's no fault of the star's--he's a bang-on vocal chameleon--but the monkey-dance shtick can only go so far. Ultimately, the script needs tweaking.

Visuals projected on a large screen behind Miller work well as various backdrops. Creative use of lighting and sound bring the macabre backdrop of Scotland and the curious mind of Homer to life. An elaborate puppet show takes place. All in all, while the production elements are not fancy, they are inventive and work effectively under Sean Lynch's direction. Not that they even have to be, really, for Miller's talent is enough to carry the entire show.

The highlight of the evening, for me, was after Miller had taken his bows. For after the curtain has descended on MacHomer, Miller returns to the stage for his impressive encore: Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody", employing no fewer than 25 of what he terms "the most annoying singing voices in music". The vocal abilities of Tom Waits, Bono, Barry White, Johnny Cash, Meatloaf, Eminem, Botticelli and Axel Rose are all flexed and paraded for the audience's giddy pleasure. Not only is it damn funny, it simply underscores the point that the enjoyment of MacHomer does not so much have to do with the play itself, as our delight in watching Miller perform. For both the play and the encore are merely vehicles for the star to showcase his talent.

A great piece of theatre it is not, nor does it try to be. MacHomer is a fun, silly, romp from Birnam Wood through to the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, with des bonbons assortis of pop culture thrown in for shits n giggles. And another (completely unrelated) bonus for South Park fans: you will find the answer to that age-old question of "who killed Kenny?"

Billy S. would've been proud.

What: MacHomer (version 4.0)
When: Nightly at 7:30pm through September 30. 1:00pm matinee also available on the 30th.
Where: Young Centre for the Performing Arts
Cost: $15 to $30
Info and box office: 416.866.8666
Psst: Though rush tickets may be available ($15 if you buy them in person 15 minutes before the show), due to the popularity of the show, you best pre-order.


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