Renaissance son

Nineteen-year-old Chico thespian/musician Loki Miller creates rock-opera tribute to Meatloaf

DOUBLE THREAT <br> With a father in theater and a mother and stepfather in music, Loki Miller was born and bred to be a showman.

With a father in theater and a mother and stepfather in music, Loki Miller was born and bred to be a showman.

Photo By Jason Cassidy

Blue Room

2600 Auburn Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95821

(916) 487-7600

Isn’t it a little strange that the creator of the Blue Room’s upcoming musical production, Bat Out of Hell: The Meat Loaf Experience, is only 19 years old? The dramatic work of the flamboyant Meat Loaf seems an obvious choice for a tribute, but why would a teenager in 2009 care about the guy?

“I was watching a lot of Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud and stuff like that. … So, I just wanted to do something with a lot of size. I really wanted to do something big,” said Loki Miller, the author, director and lead in this 13-song rock opera.

“The part I don’t really know is how that got [turned] into Meat Loaf.”

As he continued to try to characterize the Meat Loaf production, dropping more far-flung references (“It’s like Cirque du Soleil without all of the acrobatics.” “It’s like Ziegfeld Follies.”), it becomes increasingly apparent that Miller isn’t your average teenager.

Even by Chico’s come-one-come-all arts-community standards, Miller has had an above-average experience. He’s already played leads in productions for the Blue Room, Chico Cabaret, Butte College and Shakespeare in the Park. In addition, he’s an accomplished musician who writes his owns songs and has played guitar for respected local songwriters Barbara Manning and Danny Cohen, and has even performed his original tunes as the opening act for Robert Cray at the El Rey Theatre last spring.

Miller’s artistic life started with being raised by some widely known Chico artists. His mother, Melinda Mohnike, is a musician, as is his stepdad, drummer Charles Mohnike (Blue Plate Special, the Incredible Diamonds). And his father, Jerry Miller, in addition to being one of Chico’s most respected actors and directors, is a theater instructor at Butte College who has shepherded Chico’s Shakespeare in the Park for the past 20 summers.

“He was raised around theater,” said the elder Miller. “If I had sets to work on or had to work backstage at a show, [my sons] were always there. … He was born and bred in the arts.”

Though Loki was the only one of Jerry Miller’s two sons to catch the bug, the two of them had their theater debuts alongside their father on the Blue Room stage 13 years ago, playing choirboys in a production of The Man Who Came to Dinner.

While dad used to lead the show, Miller admitted that the balance in the local scene is shifting. “In the last year, I’ve gone from being Jerry Miller to being Loki’s dad. Now we have divergent ideas about theater—I think it’s part of a natural process. [As a father] it’s a little sad, but he’s finding himself now.”

“It’s a lot more fun now that I’m older—I come at it like we’re co-actors,” said the younger Miller. “I like working with [my dad] because he’s good.”

The Meat Loaf Experience is “a tale of young love, life, death and rock-and-roll dreams,” but there is no dialogue. Just the seven songs from Bat Out of Hell, plus six other Meat Loaf tunes, all sung by Miller in a three-movement opera. “It’s not a Meat Loaf sing-along hour. It’s just Meat Loaf music.

“I wanted to bring in all kinds of different artists,” Miller said, to make as big of a splash as possible. In addition to a full light show, there will be a 10-person band that includes guitarists Kirk Williams (of metal crew Armed For Apocalypse) and Aaron Lyon, plus a multitude of vocalists, keyboardists and horn players. Gearhead Tattoo and Barber Shop is doing hair and makeup, local designers are making the costumes, and Daniel Vera and Samantha Francis have darkly painted the stage show’s rock-and-roll set.

“[It’s] suitably epic, Miller said. “I always want to push the limits—I’m really into being an entertainer.”

Miller recently applied and was denied admission to New York’s Juilliard school for drama (“I was pretty cheesed about that,” he said), but he admitted that he’s really enjoying what is a pretty rich artistic life in Chico, and at the Blue Room in particular.

“I can go there when something artistically is calling me,” Miller said. “It’s very community-based —I’m really grooving on that.”