Blast! seems intended to be America's answer to the entertainment extravaganzas that have toured the globe the last few years. Unlike Riverdance, Stomp!, or Tap Dogs, however, the focus of Blast! - under the helm of producer and artistic director James Mason - is more on music than dance. Fifty-eight talented young men and women blow horns, pound drums, and throw flags in their quest to entertain the audience. So why is it that this show, which opened last night at the Broadway Theatre, has everything but a pulse?
Make no mistake, the music is impossible to miss. The performers, under the musical direction of James Prime, make sure that you hear every note, even if they have to rupture your ear drums to do it. The musical selections, including pieces by Ravel and Copland, are not weak, but feel out of place in a show such as this. Played with lots of volume, little heart, and even less nuance, after a while, the music all starts to sound the same. By the time the second act rolls around, it is hardly surprising even "Gee, Officer Krupke" from West Side Story can sound plodding and pedantic.
The staging, credited to Jonathan Vanderkolff, does little to help. Most of the attempts at visual variety fall flat (through no fault of Mark Thompson's colorful and attractive sets and costumes). As impressed as you may be watching a large group of people throw and catch colored flags, it is never really exciting, and grows less watchable the more it occurs. And it occurs frequently, as do marching and synchronized hand movements, which soon grow similarly wearying.
Blast!'s one moment of true creative inspiration happens near the end of the first act. Two drummers appear onstage and attempt to outdo each other with their percussive skills. Before long, the stage erupts with synchronized drummers who - in black light, no less - rile themselves and the audience to a spectacular finish. This moment is about the only time Blast! succeeds at connecting with its audience on a visceral level, and it suggests what Blast! might have been.
Throughout the rest of the show, it is obvious the performers still want to connect with the audience, but they have limited techniques at their disposal. Most often, they come to the front of the stage and blast their music, full volume, at the auditorium. Other times, they actually enter into the audience, waving flags and even shaking hands. Those moments always feel uncomfortably forced.
Leaving the theatre, don't be surprised to find the performers in the lobby, who make it nearly impossible to leave without shaking your hand. One can't help but feel sorry for them - they work very hard and want to entertain, but the format of the show does not make it easy. Despite them, the horns, the drums, and the amplification, Blast! ends up being anything but.
Blast! Presented by Cook Group Inc. and Star of Indiana. Produced by James Mason. Artisitic Director James Mason. Acting Director George Pinney. Music Director James Prime. Staging Director Jonathan Vanderkolff. Scene and Costume Design Mark Thompson. Lighting Design Hugh Vanstone. Sound Design Mark Hood/Bobby Aitken/Tom Morse. Associate Producer Donnie Vandoren. Tour Direction Dodger Touring/Big League Theatricals. Production Supervisor Tech Production Services. Production Stage Manager William Coiner.
Theatre: Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway between West 52nd and 53rd Streets
Audience: Appropriate for ages 4 and over. Children under 4 are not permitted in the theatre.
Running time: 2 hours, including one 15 minute intermission
Schedule: Tuesday through Saturday 8 PM, Wednesday and Saturday at 2:30 PM, Sunday at 3 PM
Ticket prices: Orchestra and Front Mezzanine $80, Rear Mezzanine $80, $45 & $25 A $1.25 Facilities Fee will be added to the price of each ticket.
Student Rush: $20 Student Rush tickets are available at the box office only and go on sale two hours prior to curtain. Limit of one ticket per person with valid Student ID. Cash only. Subject to availability.
Tickets online: Tele-charge
Tickets by phone: Tele-charge, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - Inside the NY metro area (212) 239-2969 Outside the NY metro area (888) 268-2020
Tickets in person: Box Office hours Monday through Saturday 10 AM to 8 PM, Sunday Noon to 6 PM
Tickets or questions by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tickets by snail mail: Blast!, PO Box 998, Times Square Station, New York, NY 10108-0998 Must include the $1.25 Facilities Fee for each ticket.