“Edward Scissorhands” may be the first exported Matthew Bourne evening whose inspiration seems more commercial than re-interpretive. That may disappoint some dance fans, but this handsome stage translation of the 1990 Tim Burton movie is — by virtue of the film’s enduring appeal to a wide age range — likely to reach a larger, more diverse audience on its North American tour than even Bourne’s “Swan Lake” managed.
The choreographer and his collaborators duly reproduce the gently satirical, mock-Gothic tone of the original, even if they mess with the plot somewhat (not necessarily improving it).
A prologue explains what happened to benign but freakish, “Cabinet of Caligari”-looking Edward: He was seemingly killed by lightning as a child, then resurrected by Adam Galbraith’s eccentric Inventor. Here he’s first discovered not by an Avon-calling Mrs. Boggs but by teenage Halloween pranksters who give the Inventor a heart attack before Edward (Sam Archer) chases them away.
Now alone in the world, Edward wanders into town, where Peg Boggs (Etta Murfitt) clasps him into the bosom of her family, the squeaky-cleanest in a parodic 1950s suburban ‘hood of identical pastel manses. Thereafter the script generally follows pic’s course, albeit with some shifted emphases.
Notably, the role of hausfrau-sexpot Joyce Monroe (a delicious Cyd Charisse-like Michela Meazza) — who vamps Edward — has been enlarged, as has the role of jock jerk Jim Upton (James Leece), Edward’s rival for the affections of the Boggs’ cheerleader daughter Kim (Kerry Biggin, rather colorless).
Bourne and Caroline Thompson (who wrote the original screenplay from her own and Burton’s story idea) have adapted this sweetly primal fable of conformity and being “different” to middling success. Some of the film’s potent simplicity is lost, without gaining any interesting new dimensions.
Characters that were caricatured yet still warmly human are now black or white, mean or nice. There’s also a touch more acid to the portrayal of smug, judgmental mainstream America (needless to say, here members of the minister’s family are the nastiest people in town), a satirical target that always goes over big among Brits.
On the ample plus side, this fast-moving show is a delight to behold as packaged by set and costume designer Lez Brotherston. Terry Davies’ original music expands seamlessly upon Danny Elfman’s alternately winsome and campily suspenseful film themes. There are nifty individual effects, like Edward’s first creation of topiary sculpture, and the magic of a climactic first act fantasy ballet among come-to-life topiary figures.
Arguably more a storybook pantomime than through-danced evening, “Edward” is most exciting movement-wise (and as choreographic storytelling) in set pieces that actually involve social dance.
First is the backyard BBQ where Edward is formally introduced to the community, including its rock ‘n’ rolling teenyboppers; then there’s the long Christmas party that both unites him with Kim and, under the influence of jealous Jim’s spiked punch, gets him ostracized for good. A twinkle-eyed, snowy (even onto orchestra seats) fade would work better if we had a clearer idea just who that little old lady is who appears only at the show’s beginning and end.
Alternating in the title role with Richard Winsor, Archer makes an endearing Edward. Other principals, repeating parts originated in London last year, are capable if somewhat restricted by the one-dimensionality of the story.
A somewhat tinny, canned-sounding mix on opening night dimmed the luster of Davies’ attractive arrangements and the smart 13-piece orchestra.