The final, dreamy pas de deux between a tormented outcast and the “normal” girl who is his soulmate is reason enough to take in “Edward Scissorhands,” the long-awaited Matthew Bourne dance piece in residence at the Ahmanson. Family fare is across-the-board enjoyable, even though production falls considerably short of both that climactic moment and the 1990 Tim Burton classic that inspired it all.
The pathetic man-boy created by Johnny Depp is an ideal lead role for a dance drama. He’s virtually inarticulate; his main character problem is his physicality; and his super-objective — to gain love and acceptance — prompts a series of monkey-see, monkey-do routines well suited to choreography. (Edward’s success at teaching a kind of “Scissorhands Macarena” to the neighbors is a first act highlight.)
Richard Winsor, alternating in the part with Sam Archer, evokes Jean-Louis Barrault in his sad, winning Pierrot face, with a touch of Chaplin in his sure physical comedy. Skittering across the Ahmanson stage when least secure, conscientiously aping those around him, and spreading his limbs and soaring in response to tenderness, Winsor embodies the yearning of the outsider fundamental to all of Burton’s work.
And a Benihana chef couldn’t be more elegant, versatile or expressive with those slashing blades. Unfortunately, Caroline Thompson appears to have employed scissorhands herself to make something of a hash of her delicate original script.
A blah Frankenstein-ish prologue involving Edward’s evident death and resurrection contributes nothing but an unpleasant creepiness (and additional evidence, on top of “Hannibal Rising,” that investing a legendary mysterious character with an understandable backstory serves no one well). Edward just wanders down from the haunted mansion to the suburban pastel paradise, no tension created.
Excision or blurring of events that showed the lad to be the misunderstood victim of society’s prejudices and vanity work against the fable’s meaning, as does Bourne’s pitilessly unfunny, caricatured treatment of the (originally homogenous) neighborhood. In Bourne’s suburbia, Edward’s particular quirk is not that much more “different” from everyone else’s, weakening the allegory through the minimized contrast.
There’s much to hold the eye in Lez Brotherston’s production design, if not the grossly unattractive costumes (barring only Edward’s). But the eye wanders during many of the group numbers, staged by Bourne with aggressive busyness (especially a criminally overlong Christmas ball) and less than his usual cinematic skill. He has missed a great theatrical coup in not letting us see Edward sculpt the human topiary whose dream ballet ends act one.
(Effect of that closer was spoiled on opening night by sound glitches, as offstage microphones’ snap and crackle killed much of the pop.)
But that final dance! Terry Davies’ music is serviceable throughout, especially in its use of Danny Elfman’s signature bongo beats. But as the first seven notes of Elfman’s ravishing, original love theme waft up from Andrew Bryan’s orchestra, and Winsor and Hannah Vassallo bend, spin and entwine in ecstatic demonstration that true love can transcend all physical obstacles, “Edward Scissorhands” is finally transported to the farthest limits of romance.