Walt Disney’s 1940 film Fantasia was an experiment in animation and music. BLAST!, brought that animation to life on the stage with real people not only by playing the music, but interpreting it visually to create a phenomenal mix of music, choreography, color, athleticism and vocals.
There are 16 musical selections that cover a mixture of fast numbers like “Malaguena,” wailing blues like “Everybody Loves The Blues,” techno like “Lemontech,” and a vocal piece called “Simple Gifts.” The musical gamut from classical to pop to jazz is recreated with almost nothing except percussion and brass instruments to our delight. In fact, one of the most exciting acts of the evening in this already very exciting show is the “Battery Battle,” where a battle between two drummers nearly becomes Armageddon as they beat on their drums, muscles, the stage floor, and even each other, bringing multiple rounds of applause from the audience.
These 32 artists are some of the most versatile (in every sense of the word) performers I’ve seen on the stage. They each played a variety of instruments that ranged from trombones, French horns, snare drums, and trumpets to xylophones, whistles, bongos, beaded gourds, triangles, cymbals, and cow bells. Not only did they play, but they moved, with beautiful choreography that required some to play their instruments while either doing one-handed cartwheels, being thrown through the air, or spinning around at a dizzying pace.
The show is music in motion and the choreography can best be described at kaleidoscopic. Instruments, flag poles, glow sticks and bodies were tossed through the air, always landing on the beat. The first act began with a single drummer onstage and continued to stay separate from the audience. The second act broke the 4th wall and brought the performers into the audience, making us clap our hands to the beat like we were part of the show. The audience was spellbound watching wholly synchronized movements that must have required endless days of rehearsal. In fact, one performer informed me that half of the cast is new and learned the show over 10-hour demanding rehearsals the last four weeks.
Color seems to be the single constant that connects the performers, choreography, and music together. The first act utilizes cool colors in which the musical piece “Loss” is emphasized by the color blue and the number “Appalachian Spring” is brought to life with green. The “Battery Battle” focuses the spotlight on two drummers with nothing but a black background. The second act explores warm colors with “Lemontech” exploding in bright yellow and “Malaguena” drenching us in red.
BLAST! evolved from the drum corps Star of Indiana under the creative direction of James Mason. It was the 2001 winner of the Tony Award for “Best Special Theatrical Event” and also won the 2001 Emmy Award for “Best Choreography.”
Don’t miss this opportunity to see BLAST! until February 10, 2008 at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. It is one marching band that demands to be seen as well as heard.