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I went to see Blast! with more than a few reservations. I admire the well coordinated marching bands and baton twirlers at parades and football games, but not enough to go out of my way to attend either. The idea of bringing all this outdoor pageantry to the former home of Miss Saigon, sounded more than a little like an over-hyped small-town entertainment with big-time ambitions.

My reservations were confirmed in that Blast! is hardly the Broadway musical or mind-altering experience it aims to be. On the other hand, it does live up to its name in the sense that it's a fun show with lots of talent, Technicolor staging and a genuine American as apple pie warmth.

The sixty young men and women who are part of this drum and bugle style Cirque de Soleil invest it with incredible enthusiasm and energy. The circus analogy is not made in vain since these drummers and buglers strut their musical skills with the addition of some unusual instruments plus lots of circus-y stuff -- playing while suspended from the ceiling, twirling flags and executing balletic routines. There's no story line but director James Mason, who whipped the drum corps Star of Indiana into this snappy extravaganza, makes use of its theme -- color, and lots of it -- to skillfully link the fifteen pieces, each number lasting exactly long enough before melding into the next.

Mark Thompson ( who also designed the costumes) has ingeniously partitioned the rear wall into a bi-level series of boxed sets for individual instrumentalists, creating a sense of half a dozen small bands accompanying the parade of acts on the rest of the stage. It's interesting to note that Thompson, and Hugh Vanstone, who does the razzle-dazzle lighting, also collaborated on the recently opened revival of a true musical theater classic, Follies. The versatility of the theater world's designers is indeed awesome.

From the choice of music to the eye-popping presentation, Blast! keeps drawing you in and doesn't let up. For starters, a majestic Ravel's "Bolero" accompanies the band as it first takes command of the stage. The feast of twirling flags, a lovely rendition of Copeland's "Simple Gifts" and a balletic interpretation of Barber's "Medea" are some of the first act's highlights. True to the performers' roots, the knockout numbers are a bravura snare drum solo and an ingenious snare drum duel.

The performers' enthusiasm and energy makes the first act fly by. But if this weren't a Broadway gig that had to justify its Broadway-priced tickets with two acts, an hour without intermission would be enough of a good thing. As it is, even the horn tooting unicyclist can't prevent the segment after the 20-minute intermission from being repetitious. Fortunately, director Mason is smart enough to keep the second act short and wind things up with a fiery red, sizzling "Malaguena". After that the performers exit down the aisles and scatter through the lobby and the sidewalk to chat with the audience -- sort of makes you feel like part of a congregation with sixty ministers waiting at the door to shake your hand after Sunday services. Their eagerness and good will is hard to resist.

Blast! has been video taped. The DVD version is available now; the VHS will be ready to ship in a few weeks -- both feature some different selections from those in the Broadway show:
Blast: the DVD Video
Blast the VHS video

by a production of the Cook Group and Star of Indiana, with Dodger Theatricals
Directed by James Mason
Cast: Trey Alligood III, Rachel J. Anderson, Nicholas E. Angelis, Matthew A. Banks, -Kimberly Beth Baron, Wesley Bullock, Mark Burroughs, Jesus Cantu, Jr, Jodina Rosario Carey, Alan "Otto" Compton, -Dayne Delahoussaye, Karen Duggan, Brandon J. Epperson, Kenneth Frisby , J. Derek GipsonTrevor Lee Gooch, Casey Marshall Gooding, Bradley Kerr Green, Benjamin Taber Griffin, Benjamin Raymond Handel, Benjamin W. Harloff, Joe Haworth, Darren M. Hazlett, Tim Heasley, Freddy Hernandez, Jr.,George Hester, Jeremiah Todd Huber, Martin A. Hughes, Naoki Ishikawa, Stacy J. Johnson, Sanford R. Jones, Ray Linkous, Jean marie Mallicoat, Jack Mansager, Brian Mayle, Jim Moore, Westley Morehead, David Nash, David Newcomb, Jeffrey A. Queen, Douglas Raines, Chris Rasmussen, Joseph J. Reinhart, Jamie L. Roscoe, Jennifer Ross, Christopher Eric Rutt, Christopher J. Schletter, Jonathan L. Schwartz, Greg Seale, Andy Smart, Radiah Y. Stewart,Bryan Anthony Sutton, Sean Terrell, Andrew James Toth, Joni Paige Viertel, Kristin Whiting
Scenic and Costume Design: Mark Thompson
Lighting Design: Hugh Vanstone
Costume Design:
Sound Design: Mark Hood, Bobby Aitken, Tom Moore
Orchestration: James Prime Choreography: Jim Moore, George Pinney, Jon Vanderkolff
Running Time: 1 hour and 50 minutes, including one 20-minute intermission
Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway ( West 52nd 53rd St) 239-6200
Web Site
4/05/01- 6/10/01;opening 4/17/01
Tue-Sat @8PM, Wed & Sat @2PM, Sun @3PM -- $25.00 - $80.00
Though not every critic thought it a blast, the audience respond has been good and the show will run through January 2, 1002.

Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on 4/13/01 performance

The Program
Act One
Overture of Color: Bolero (Maurice Ravel)
Color Wheel (J. Lee)
Split Complimentaries (J. Talbot)
Everybody Loves The Blues (M. Ferguson/N. Lane)
Loss (Don Ellis)
Simple Gifts/ Appalachian Spring (Aaron Copland)
Medea (Samuel Barber
The Promise of Living (Aaron Copeland)
Act 2
Coke Wheel Too (John Vanderkoff)
G. Officer Krupke (Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim)
Lemon Techno (Jonathan Vanderkoff)
Tangerineamdidge (J. Mason/J. Vanderhoff)
Land of Make Believe (Chuck Mangione)
Spiritual of the Earth: Mariemba Spiritual (M. Miki)/ Earth Beat (M. Spiro)
Malaguena (E. Lecuona)


2001 CD-ROM Deluxe

The Broadway Theatre Archive

(C)Copyright 2001, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.
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