The stage of the Benedum Theatre could barely contain the exuberant cast of performers of Blast, recently in town for a short run from October 2 - 7. Blast evolved from the drum corps Star of Indiana, founded in 1984 in by businessman Bill Cook to benefit young people in music education. Artistic Director James Mason has shaped this competitive corps into a theatrical show which brings to an indoor stage a fast paced visual and aural feast.
Brass and percussion musicians as well as dancers implement unique staging to bring new interpretations of well known musical pieces, such as Ravel's "Bolero," Copland's "Simple Gifts" and "Appalachian Spring", Bernstein's "Gee Officer Krupke," and Mangione's "Land of Make Believe." The talents and physical endurance of these young performers are evident as only traces of traditional marching band style remain during feats of musical and choreographical precision. Playing well together, and even more impression during solos, the brass players are the highlight of the jazz segments of the show. Using Mark Thompson's simple but effective costuming, the dancers show their ability to twirl just about anything they can get their hands on: flags, music-making sticks, and rifle-shaped objects. Some effects are unique; others are equal to standard halftime show baton twirling. One of the most exciting pieces in Blast features a battle of two percussionists, culminating in the building of a chorus line of snare drummers, playing perfect and intricate drills in black light.
The inherent All-American quality of a marching band, even one so fancied up, is evident in Blast and, although this production didn't include the added patriotic number other recent productions have, the current atmosphere of pride in America surely increases the experience of being in the Blast audience. Luckily, the volume provided for this show was just right -- not overly loud as easily could have been the case. An enjoyable experience for music fans of all-ages, Blast is a nice complement to the standard tour schedule.
See the current Schedule of Pittsburgh Theatre.
-- Ann Miner