Thursday, March 15, 2007

Dancing With Scissors

"Edward Scissorhands" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Howard Gilman Opera House, March 14, 2007

Matthew Bourne's stage adaptation of the Tim Burton movie has arrived at BAM for a limited run. (Spoiler Alert)

As you enter the theatre, there is a recording of glass breaking that continues until the lights dim and the overture begins. (Not sure why they used breaking glass - I would have thought something more like cracking ice, or the sound of scissors would set the story.) It felt a bit like standing in line for the Haunted Mansion at Disney.

The basic story remains, with a few variations here and there, most of which made sense for a stage adaptation. An old woman story teller enters in snow to set the scene. As the story transitions into the redundant suburbs, Mr. Bourne has expanded each household represented in the movie into a family of four. There is some clever staging setting the routine of daily life, from rising each morning to drive to work/school to the return home each evening, with careful attention to show the individual characters of the families, as well as within them. Edward (Richard Winsor) is lost and wandering the streets below his castle upon the death of his inventor following a Halloween prank by the neighborhood teens. After creating his first topiary, he stumbles upon Peg Boggs (Madelaine Brennan). Their first meeting is quite tender, once she realizes his hands are not meant as weapons and that they have the same potential of injury to him as to anyone else. Once he meets Peg's daughter Kim (Hannah Vassallo) he is smitten, even though he doesn't really know what it means. He dreams of her and they dance among the topiaries (some of the very clever costuming by Lex Brotherston). It's a sweet pas de deux as Edward dreams of loving Kim with human hands.

Kim's boyfriend Jim Upton (James Leece) is a standard bully. He sees the threat that Edward represents to his tiny little world of power and takes every opportunity to cast him unfavorably. Joyce Monroe (Michela Meazza), the unfaithful wife of the neighborhood, lures Edward to her home for a tryst. The innocent Edward doesn't quite understand what she wants, but does realize that whatever it is, it's wrong. Her seduction is very nicely danced.

Edward starts to feel accepted once his hair salon opens and the leads the company in a clever tango. As his fame grows, so does his disenchantment realizing that he's no more than a novelty.

His feelings for Kim are about to be returned in a lovely recreation of the ice-carving scene creating snow. They dance briefly (a bit too briefly, I thought) before Jim arrives to take Kim to the Christmas dance. At the dance, forces combine against Edward. Joyce, affections spurned and Jim's jealousy play out as Jim gets Edward drunk. Out of control, he ruins the evening and trying to regain control and defend himself, he slashes Kim's little brother Kevin (Gavin Eden) across the cheek. Edward flees to the cemetery for refuge.

Kim has found Edward first and expresses her love for him. Too soon, Jim and the rest of the neighbors arrive. Jim and Edward fight, until Jim thinks Edward has been beaten. As Edward reaches for Peg for consolation, Jim stumbles onto his blades and is killed. Edward disappears, never to be seen again. All Kim finds left is a pair of scissors. In a bit of a "West Side Story" moment, she challenges the crowd for their complicity in what has happened, then exits the stage alone. The story teller woman (Old Kim) returns, producing the scissors as snow begins to fall - Edward's annual reminder of his love for her.

As Edward, Mr. Winsor captures the same innocence and dances splendidly. Ms. Vassallo's Kim is a bit more assertive. Ms. Brennan's Peg is true to form, sweet and loving. Mr. Leece's Jim is the bully most of us knew in school who actually did the terrible things he was expected to have done. Ms. Meazza's Joyce, long, lean and limber, vamps and slinks with the best of them.

Musically, it's a lovely score, but certain sections had an "Irish" feel to me in the newer pieces by Terry Davies. Other sections reminded me a bit of underscoring by Richard Rodgers. His arrangements and orchestrations of original music by Danny Elfman felt much more successful. Under the baton of Andrew Bryan, the orchestra was terrific.

Mr. Brotherston's sets and costumes were splendid. From the myriad topiary bush creations to the costume topiary creations to the 1950s era attire of the cast, he has a marvelous touch. Even his interpretation of Edward, in brown leather with black accents was a nice variation from the severe black ensemble from the original movie. Mr. Brotherston also used to very nice effect, a series of blade shadows in almost every setting - symbolizing the dangerous edge to Edward's story. From one perspective, it might look like blades of grass, but from another, the knife-like blades of Edward's hands. Howard Harrison's lights achieved particularly nice effects.

Choreographically, Mr. Bourne is in good form here, but I felt the dancing was just a little "spare" in certain scenes. During those times it felt like the exposition was taking focus when it should have been dancing that related that part of the story. One example was Edward's first night at the Boggs'. Getting him settled in to Kim's room felt a bit fussy and more about the plot point than the choreography.

(Starwatch: Alan Cumming (BAM Board Member) sitting in the third row)

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