Review: ‘Blast’

"Love me, I'm amazing," is the emotional message conveyed by the 54-member cast of "Blast," and in this case their prodigious talents justify the effort. The show, an extensively embellished derivation of the drum corps Star of Indiana, won a 2001 Tony for special theatrical event, and "event" is the key word.

“Love me, I’m amazing,” is the emotional message conveyed by the 54-member cast of “Blast,” and in this case their prodigious talents justify the effort. The show, an extensively embellished derivation of the drum corps Star of Indiana, won a 2001 Tony for special theatrical event, and “event” is the key word. Every number is a closer, sometimes to the point of overkill, but a combination of multicolored flags, acrobatic dancers and daring soloists on trumpet, trombone, tuba, flugelhorn, French horn, snare drum and marimba stirs up the emotions and maintains nonstop excitement.

Show opens effectively with one drummer building up Ravel’s “Bolero” followed by a stageful of musicians who match expert playing with seamless movement. Booming timpani pump up the volume, leading to a dramatically dissonant finale. With no story, “Blast” relies on musicianship, especially the brass. The drums — emphasized in the advertising — fit nicely behind the brass without dominating.

Scenic designer Mark Thompson unveils a splendid set in song two, “Color Wheel,” partitioning the stage into six parts featuring different musicians. Musically, the production’s first powerhouse number is Maynard Ferguson’s “Everybody Loves the Blues,” featuring spectacular trumpet work by Adam Rapa. Rapa behaves as if the trumpet’s range is limitless, wailing out a high F over and over again. The number culminates in a rousing swing rhythm at the end with a good 40 or 50 musicians onstage.

The moody “Loss” introduces another top trumpet man, Frank Sullivan, who descends from the ceiling in a blue chair and evokes the atmosphere of an empty city street at 5 a.m. From this dark, urban cry, artistic director James Mason moves to the rustic outdoor flavor of Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.” Copland’s symphonic suite, so identified with delicate strings and woodwinds, is beautifully arranged, and the climactic orchestration has rich suspensions and impeccably chosen bass lines.

Drummer Nicholas E. Angelis follows with a brief, invigorating one-man exhibition on “Battery Battle,” serving up a solo with hostile glee, as though determined to beat his instrument into submission. His virtuosity is remarkable, but when a second, equally gifted drummer, Christopher “Kit” Chatham, instigates a drummer’s duel, it tends to cancel out and overdo what we’ve heard. The duel has dazzling moments but runs on too long.

The show’s can-you-top-this theatricality is well suited to “Gee Officer Krupke” from “West Side Story.” It lumps together a circus spirit, a rhythmic shift that would suit the Rockettes, oom pah pahs from the tuba, a saber dance riff, zippy xylophone and even an accordion. Only animals are missing.

“Lemontech” is lively techno-pop, though it pales in comparison to Chuck Mangione’s “Land of Make Believe.” This infectious melody boasts an excellent French horn solo by Amy Sanchez and Matthew A. Banks’ contrapuntal tuba.

Vincent D. Oliver’s fine marimba work is spotlighted on “Marimba of the Earth,” and “Malaguena” brings back Adam Rapa’s trumpet and pairs him with David J. Pollock’s pulsating trombone.

Tom Morse’s sound is strong but never intrusive. Hugh Vanstone’s lighting contributes to the party atmosphere, and choreography by Jim Moore, George Pinney and Jonathan Vanderkolff enables show’s dancers to integrate with the musicians in a way that makes both groups shine.


Royce Hall, UCLA; 1,818 seats; $67 top


A Cook Group and Star of Indiana presentation of a musical revue in two acts. Produced by William A. Cook and James Mason; acting director, George Pinney; musical director, James Prime; staging director, Jonathan Vanderkolff.


Sets and costumes, Mark Thompson; lighting, Hugh Vanstone; sound, Tom Morse; choreography, Jim Moore/George Pinney/Jonathan Vanderkolff. Opened and reviewed Aug. 21, 2002; closes Sept. 1. Running time: 1 HOUR, 45 MIN.


Ensemble: Jonathan A. Almond, Nicholas E. Angelis, Melissa A. Babalonis, Matthew A. Banks, Deborah Barrigan, Ryan Braun, Jeremy M. Brewer, Kevin R. Brubaker, Wesley Bullock, Erin E. Byrne, Robert Carmical, Christopher "Kit" Chatham, Robert B. Chreste Jr., DJ Corchin, David E. Cox, Benjamin W. Dixon, Jonathan C. Eichelberger, Michael Floyd, Francis L. Franqui, Michael Patrick Gobiel, Keith F. Hallas, Jeffrey F. Handel, Cameron Harder, Lynsey M. Hill, Jeremiah T. Huber, Stacy J. Johnson, Sanford R. Jones, John W. Leonard Jr., Thomas S. Lukowicz, James D. Lutz, Thomas Martin, Brian Mayle, Amy V. McCabe, Alex F. McDonald, Ryan H. McGeorge, Vincent D. Oliver, Stephen J. Pollino, Adam Rapa, Christopher K. Reidy, Jamie L. Roscoe, Jason Roth, Amy M. Sanchez, Andrew Schneiders, Jonathan L. Schwartz, Todd E. Snead, Frank Sullivan, Bryan Anthony Sutton, Sean Terrell, Michael Taylor, Brady W. White, Kari White, Jeremy D. Whiting.
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