Sunday, April 14, 2002

Blast! (Playhouse Square Center)

'Blast!' explodes with entertainment at the Palace

It has been dubbed “a novel art form, “ “a musical spectacular,” and a “new artistic genre.” In reality, BLAST!, now on stage at the Palace Theatre, is an undefinable piece of entertainment. How many adjectives and adverbs are there to explain perpetual motion and sound, a visual explosion of pleasure, audience glee, and enthusiastic appeal? No matter the number, they can all be used to describe BLAST!

BLAST! has no story line. It is a series of musical numbers, accompanied by a flag show, musicians sitting on chairs hanging from the ceiling, cast members twirling rifles and sabres, performers sitting next to audience members, musicians marching up the aisles, and drummers playing in the lobby during intermission. Add to that the use of grass blades, bells, wings, scalenes, double sticks, media flags, poles, techno flags, techno sabres, glow rifles, glowing light rods, whistles and whirly gigs. The drummers are dynamic, the dancers excellent, the music foot-tapping, the musicians competent.

The rendition of “Gee Officer Krupke” from 'WEST SIDE STORY' found cast members running, writhing, and interacting with each other in a delightful parody. “Color Wheel” was emblazoned by a flag team using material of varying hues. “Tangerinamadidge” was a song played on didgerydoos.

Jim Mason, the creative force behind the show, developed the concept in 1985. A life-long veteran of drum and bugle corps he set out to transform the squads into a complete theatrical experience. As he says, “BLAST! is almost like a Disneyesque animation, only in BLAST! the animation comes to life with real people playing the music and interpreting it visually.”

Capsule judgement: Even non-enthuiasts can be won over by the presentation. As one audience member said, “I was expecting to come out with a headache from the loud noise. Instead I came out humming, whistling, dancing, and wishing that I could entertain like those kids!” (The average age of the cast is 23.8 years.) Yes, it’s impossible not to have a blast at BLAST!.