It is Bourne's most accessible piece - straightforwardly following its protagonist's journey from the moment of his Frankenstein-like creation. There is no necessity for viewing the film in advance of the show, or reading a pre-show synopsis. The plot is crisp and easy to follow. While there are moments when there is so much going on that you might miss a detail (every once in a while, part of the audience laughs, and you think, "Oh darn, what did I miss?"), there's no chance of losing the main storyline, as Edward leaves his solitary gothic chamber and tries to make his way in a pastel-colored suburb, with nothing but good intentions and a natural talent for topiary.
With this show, director and choreographer Bourne has reinvented himself - transforming from being a specialized taste, lauded as a visionary by only those who "get" his work, into the creator of holiday entertainment for the masses. And he has done this without skimping on the inventiveness that first earned him headlines. The show has several big ensemble numbers - from the comic "Suburban Ballet," in which we are introduced to six different families and the way they live in their perfect little houses (skewed perspective, as always, courtesy of set designer Lez Brotherston); through a celebratory outdoor party; a second-act opener when Edward is, for the first time, not only accepted but appreciated; and the splendid Christmas ball at the end (Brotherston's costumes, here especially, are a perfect complement). But Bourne's choreography really shines in its more intimate moments. In his hands, the act of putting suntan lotion on another's body becomes an exercise in seductive acrobatics. And Edward's desire for a local girl manifests itself in a series of three duets, culminating with some of Bourne's most unique choreography to date, which has been perfectly set up for maximum emotional effect.
At the performance reviewed, Richard Winsor danced the role of Edward as a good-natured innocent who only occasionally seemed so blind to the baser nature of those around him that it would get him into trouble. The long blades that Edward uses as hands seemed a true part of him, not just a prop. Indeed, it wasn't until partway through the second act that it dawned on me that dancing with those things has to massively difficult. Hanna Vassallo gave a sweet performance as Edward's love interest, Kim, seeming absolutely weightless in her leaps and lifts. And Etta Murfitt was charming as Kim's mother - the first person in the town to come across Edward, and whose immediate reaction to meeting this strange and deadly-looking man is to civilize him.
A note for those who want to appreciate the full impact of this show fresh and unspoiled - many of the production photos for the show, some of which are replicated in the "Performance" magazine - show certain images from the second act which are perhaps better left unseen. While I don't doubt that the show is effective on multiple viewings, there's a great deal of power in the onstage reveal of some of the more striking tableaux, and you'll be better off opening yourself up to this cathartic experience with completely fresh eyes.
Center Theatre Group - Michael Ritchie, Artistic Director; Charles Dillingham, Managing Director; Gordon Davidson, Founding Artistic Director - and Dance ad the Music Center present: A New Adventures, Martin McCallum, and Marc Platt Production Edward Scissorhands. Devised, Directed and Choreographed by Matthew Bourne; Music and Arrangements by Terry Davies; Including Themes from the Original Motion Picture by Danny Elfman; Based on the Original Motion Picture by arrangement with 20th Century Fox; Original Story and Motion Picture Directed by Tim Burton; Original Screenplay and Co-Adaptation by Caroline Thompson; Set and Costume Designed by Lez Brotherston; Lighting Designed by Howard Harrison; Sound Designed by Paul Groothuis.
Cast (at the performance reviewed):
Photo by Bill Cooper
Edward Scissorhands plays at the Ahmanson Theatre through December 31, 2006. For tickets and information see www.centertheatregroup.org