Boom, Baby, Boom

Nominated for Outstanding Production

I wanted to mythologize my hometown. Writers had done it for London, Berlin, Paris…Toronto was so unloved. I chanced upon a photo of the bewitching Clement Hambourg in a book about Toronto in 1959. Clement launched his House of Hambourg in 1946, one of the first after-hour jazz clubs in Toronto. Billed as "Three Stories of Jazz," the 14-room house on Cumberland booked folks like Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis, and Louis Armstrong. He ran it until the 1960s, when the expanding Toronto subway forced him to shut down. 

The 1959 caption under Clem’s photo called him a ‘New Canadian.  He came from a family of immigrants, Germans from Russia who were devoted to classical music. My parents were ‘new Canadians,’ too. They’d arrived in Toronto as Latvian refugees; they spoke with an accent and were most decidedly unhip. The story of my jazz play took a sharp turn, and my version of Clement was joined by a Latvian runaway who hid from her wartorn past in his beehive of boptivity.

In this play, I didn't care about plot. I aimed to make free with text and character in the way that jazz musicians play with a theme. I juxtaposed Clement’s ornate speech patterns with the accented discourse of the Latvian exiles. I strove to combine spoken word, movement, and live music in an original fashion, with the help of choreographer, Susan McKenzie and an intensely dedicated cast which included Ann-Marie Macdonald, Cynthia Asperger, David Bolt, Martin Julien, Kate Lynch, Vieslav Krystyan, and a jazz quartet with Allen Cole, Victor Bateman, and Richard Bannard.

My biggest find was the composer Nic Gotham. He’d made a name for himself in the Toronto jazz scene with the group Gotham City and he led the quartet on stage with his saxophone. Reader, I married him. Boom, Baby, Boom was the beginning of a lifelong series of collaborations.

We premiered the show in 1988 at the Du Maurier World Stage Festival, Toronto. Those three performances were all we ever got to do. The show was independently produced by Claire Hopkinson and we couldn’t scrape up the money for another full production. Nevertheless, our show was nominated for a Dora, and published twice: in The CTR Anthology, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1993 and by Exile Editions, Toronto,1995.


Ann-Marie MacDonald as Austra Mednis, Martin Julien as Jekyll, Kate Lynch as Mrs. Hambourg

David Bolt as Clement Hambourg