Dates:16 - 21 September 2003
Venue: The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts

Reviewer: Patricia Fleming






Producers: William Cook and James Mason
Musical Director: James Prime
Choreographer: Jim Moore, George Pinney and Jonathan Vanderkloff

Generation Y is alive and well, and in full throttle, at The Centre. BLAST blew into town and on opening night, last September 16th, mind you, there were moments in the evening when this Baby Boomer could have sworn she was back in the sixties. It was all those strobe lights on stage and the throbbing percussion beat, but when I opened my eyes, their hair was too short and all the actors were just too clean cut. It was BLAST, 2003: Part dance, part pantomime, part drill-team, part performance art, part cheerleading event, part musical -but all fun.

The program was a mix of Ravel, Bernstein, Barber, and Bobby McFerrin. The pieces were energetic, noisy, exuberant, and in some cases, highly original, and played to a very mixed crowd in a packed house. It was hard to leave the theater not feeling good. The sound was great, the lighting very effective, the performers talented, and the use of flags, whistles and xylophones, drums, horns, cartwheels (and javelins held as the hands of a clock in a number I shall have to call “Tick Tock”), very imaginative.

Two percussionists, David Brent Ellis and Naoki Ishikawa, performed a mock-competitive “Drumathon” together, and were a hit with the crowd. During the 20 minute intermission, they, and two other drummers, positioned themselves on the mirrored stairway and drummed up a storm using wooden stools as drums. Now, that really was a blast! We were five deep, clutching our drinks, and hanging over the balcony trying to get a look at them and the mirrored effect was, as someone next to me noted, very “Brian De Palma” (the American filmmaker).





Four drummers mirrored to show 16 drummers. That element of surprise made the performance more interesting and I really liked the way they “leaked’ their music into the twenty minute intermission.

The big, full-brass, tubas, trumpets, cornets, french horns, and horns of all kinds in Chuck Mangione’s number Land of Make Believe, was fun and playful and had us all clapping along. There was a great drum solo number with 12 drummers on the darkened stage and I particularly liked Lemontech by J.Vanderkolff (beautifully lit) and the piece with 5 or 6 didgeridoo performers prancing around on a darkened stage, and down among the audience, with vaguely primitive-sounding emotions blowing our way.

As we left the theater, once again a group of percussionists bled out to the bottom of the stairs, drumming us out of the building, as all the other performers were lining up to shake our hands. That too was different, although I felt like I was leaving a Pep Rally or maybe a political event. I asked one of the performers if all their theater exits were done this way on the tour and he said no. The Centre turned out to be a very effective venue, particularly with the mirrored walls in the foyer, to showcase the BLAST extravaganza.

© 2003, Patricia Fleming