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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Blast! At the 5th Avenue Theatre

Also see David's review of Copenhagen

Imagine a half-time show gone full-time and high-tech and what you have is Blast!, an undeniably well-executed, if ultimately exhausting display of marching band, flag-waving, choreography and state-of-the-art lighting effects. This incessantly cheery and loud entertainment is not what I would ever call musical theatre (a routine performed to West Side Story's "Gee, Officer Krupke" notwithstanding), so the 2001 Tony award it took for Special Theatrical Event certainly was handed out in the right category.

If you have ever wondered what those talented kids you see in parades and half-time events do after they get out of school, Blast! seems to be the answer. And an undeniably talented troupe of fifty-four musician/dancer/athletes they are. The music they play ranges a fairly wide gamut from Ravel's "Bolero" To the aforementioned Bernstein classic to Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring" to "Malaguena". They sound fine (if you don't mind loud, louder and loudest) and have been ably directed by James Mason and choreographed by George Pinney, Jonathan Vanderkoff, and Jim Moore.

Mark Thompson's set is highlighted by six upstage mini-stages loaded with percussion instruments, leaving most of the playing space wide-open for the cast to strut its stuff. His lighting is flashy and varied and his attractive, well-coordinated costumes look to be designed for the cast's comfort as much as the audience's appreciation.

Two hours of this (plus an intermission in which several cast members party on in the lobby) wears thin, even for younger audience members, but a general sense of goodwill remains with the audience from beginning to end. Blast! Is like an adorable puppy that keeps licking you well after you wish it would stop, but in its unpretentious and overeager way, it is a likable enough way to spend an evening.

Blast! Runs through Oct. 27 at the 5th Avenue Theatre, 1308 5th Avenue in Seattle. For more information visit the 5th Avenue's website at www.5thavenuetheatre.org.




- David-Edward Hughes



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