Thursday, November 15, 2001

'Blast' will march into your heart

Theater review

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Blast is mindless, tuneful and loud, and its apple-cheeked cast is so darned American — a fine combination for these anxiety-ridden times. No wonder the Broadway in Cincinnati audience on Tuesday, opening night, loved them.

        Young, cheerful, energetic, attractive — and talented — they invite goodwill. For the course of two half-time shows and an intermission they seem to personify what we hold dear.

        And they can march in patterns and throw batons (and fake rifles and sabres) high in the air and catch them without a blink.

        Blast is a phenom born of the drum-and-bugle corps tradition. I've been surprised by how many of my friends and acquaintances have been coming out of the marching band closet over the last few weeks as they've mentioned buying tickets. Many tickets. (Even I admit to putting my time in, although it was so long ago I've forgotten which instrument I played.)

        The Blast company rises out of a world champion corps, and they look and sound it. Show creator James Mason either knows a little goes a long way or just wants to leave folks wanting more. Blast is a lickety-split 90 minutes including a 20-minute intermission.

        Things are pretty much divvied up between brass and drum interludes with a full complement of what the program calls “visual ensemble” carrying oversized silk flags and streamers and throwing the aforementioned batons, etc.

        The percussion numbers owe a lot to Stomp, a show that helped break ground for non-traditional entertainments on traditionally theatrical stages.

        Blast adds black light to the mix, an effective effect, and “Battery Battle'' has lots of drum tricks with drumsticks.

        While nobody would mistake the brass players for dancers (most of the moves have a real Las Vegas insincerity, as do the occasional attempts at aw-shucks comedy), the musicians are called on to do fairly challenging activities while playing, like climbing on and off folding chairs. (Why? Because they're there?)

        The show smartly sends players up and down the aisles and even into the balcony to bond with the audience, and bond they do.

        What surprised me was the degree to which the energy, color and invitation for emotional response correlates to good contemporary dance.

        If you find yourself needing a Blast fix after Blast has moved on, instead of visiting the nearest grandstand, consider a touring modern dance troupe as an alternative. It could be a pleasant surprise.
        Blast, through Nov. 25, Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Cincinnati, Aronoff Center, Procter & Gamble Hall. 241-7469.


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