Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

Edward Scissorhands
Is a Tender, Dark and Funny Dance Play

Also see Richard's reviews of Amanda McBroom and Flora, the Red Menace

Sam Archer
I have been looking forward to choreographer/director Matthew Bourne's new production after hearing the positive reviews of his Edward Scissorhands at the Sadler Wells in London last year. I became a fan of the dance master after seeing his production of Cinderella in England in the early 1990s. Later, I reveled in seeing Bourne's Nutcracker!, Car Man and finally his Swan Lake, which played here last year.

His Edward Scissorhands is starting its North American tour at the Orpheum Theatre, where it is being presented through December 10th. The dance musical is based on Tim Burton's superb 1990 Fox film Edward Scissorhands and follows closely to the film in many scenes.

For eight years, Matthew Bourne tried to get Tim Burton to give him the rights to put this gothic tale into a theatrical dance musical. The Hollywood director finally granted him the rights with a proviso that it would be made Bourne's choreographic image. The choreographer wisely got the original Hollywood team on board, which included film composer Danny Elfman (one of my favorite composers on film) and original screenplay writer Caroline Thompson. Bourne has kept his promise, as the choreographer's inimitable comic, loving footprints are all over the two-act dance event. Terry Davies, who is conducting the orchestra, did some extra composing and arranging while adapting Elfman's original score to good effect.

Edward Scissorhands is not perfect. It does not have the excitement of his Car Man, the innovation of Cinderella, the romantic feel of Swan Lake or the quirkiness of Nutcracker!. However, it is an entertaining dance musical.

The opening scene takes place under a gothic night sky and looks like something out of the original 1930s Frankenstein movies. The audience sees the beginnings of Edward and how an eccentric inventor attempts to replace his own dead son. However in this case, the inventor applies long, sharp scissors to the end of arms instead of hands. The unconventional inventor is killed off almost immediately by some "trick or treaters" on a Halloween night.

In an almost too fast scene, the dance segues into a cartoon colored suburb called Hope Springs where we see the odd Edward, all dressed in black with those shears, living among jocks, desperate housewives, bible bashers and office dads just home from a happy day of work. The '50s style setting is full of bright joviality, manicured lawns and Stepford-style cheerful families. Apparently, the whole neighborhood welcomes this unusual pasty faced person since he is good at hairdressing and topiary skills.

Edward is made comfortable in the Boggs household and apparently he gets their young daughter Kim's darling pink bedroom that is straight out of those Beach Blanket movies made by Universal in the '50s. It is all peaches and cream for the freak of nature. He evens falls in love with the virginal daughter, and a dream sequence occurs with Edward and Kim doing a lovely classical pas de deux surrounded by dancing topiary bushes.

Matthew Bourne uses every type of dance for this two hour presentation, with Broadway dance (a la West Side Story and Grease), along with a Spanish dance and a swing number to music that sounds like Benny Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing."

Edward Scissorhands has a much too long scene of cartoon dancing in the pool party segment when Edward becomes a virtuoso barber cutting a vamp's hair. The comedy almost destroys the bittersweet tragedy of the dance musical. The second act also contains the very long Christmas ball sequence where the dancers jive to the swing era music that was done much better in Contact. Much of the dancing borders on mime, with physical gestures telling the story.

Sam Archer with his long, pasty white face and dressed all in black leather, is perfectly cast in the lead role. He projects a tender helplessness about the character. Kerry Biggin makes a perfect "Gidget" type character as Kim. She is bright and perky and very good in the dancing department. Etta Murfitt gives a good compassionate performance as Peg Boggs, and Michela Meazza give a fine performance as Joyce Monroe.

Some of Terry Davies' score is a compromise with Danny Elfman's film music; it is melodic in places, such as the dream sequence in the first act, while at other times it is synthetic at best. Les Brotherston's designs are a triumph, especially in the dream sequence and Christmas Ball scene. All in all, it is a great piece of theatre and will make you go back and watch the movie again.

Matthew Bourne's Edward Scissorhands plays at the Orpheum Theatre, Market at 8th, San Francisco through December 10th. For tickets please call 415-512-7770, at, at all Ticketmaster Ticket Centers and at the Orpheum Box Office from 10 am - 6 pm.

Best of Broadway's production of Doubt is playing at the Golden Gate through December 3rd. Jersey Boys opens at the Curran Theatre on December 1.

Photo: Bill Cooper

Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema

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