BWW Reviews: BLAST! Showcases Drum Corps Style Music and Showmanship at Heinz Hall
BLAST!, winner of the 2001 Tony Award for "Best Special Theatrical Event," and the 2001 Emmy Award for "Best Choreography," plays Pittsburgh's Heinz Hall from October 6 through 9, 2011. Born on athletic fields across the nation, BLAST! is a novel art form evolved from the showmanship of outdoor pageantry, conceptualized by Artistic Director James Mason, a lifelong veteran of drum and bugle corps.
BLAST! is a unique mix of high caliber musicianship and precision choreography, and its cast members comprise three performing sections - the brass, percussion and visual ensembles. A BLAST! audience is frequently dotted with inspiration-seeking young musicians from high school marching bands, who frequently emulate drum corps style marching and arrangements in their own repertoires. These aspiring young musicians will not be disappointed by the two hour production, that showcases the ensemble of world-class musicians who are also highly trained athletes.
As those who have been in marching bands will always attest, the drummers always seem to be the coolest, hippest and most popular, and this rings true as well in the BLAST! ensemble. Lead percussionist Lance Kindl practically explodes with charisma, particularly during Act I's highlight piece, "Battery Battle", where he wows the audience with crazy mad drumming skills as he literally battles fellow percussionist Brad Broomfield, also an ensemble standout. This piece also includes an amazing segment of unbelievable drum line synchronization, highlighted with glow in the dark drums and drumsticks, creating a visually stunning spectacle of music and showmanship.
The visual ensemble accompanists choreograph elaborate routines using an incredible range of props ranging from traditional flags and twirling rifles, to lighted pipes and more; their performance is visually flawless and technically impressive - and perfectly complements their musical counterparts. Their highly synchronized, ballet-like drills create strong visual and conceptual themes throughout the show - bringing color and light to the forefront.
Pittsburgh native Angelica Davison, the troupe's Athletic Trainer, no doubt plays an important role in keeping this group of young musicians athletically conditioned, allowing them to shine in their nightly celebration of movement and music.
The brass ensemble's performance is perfected, melodically beautiful and technically impressive, but nonetheless makes the audience wait for much of the show for what are only a few standout moments where the brass line really lets loose and 'wails', as many drum corps aficionados may be hoping for. Courtlon Cochran's solo trumpet work in the show's closer, "Malaguena", is one of the most memorable brass moments, when the brass section finally lets loose in terms of both volume and enthusiasm, closing the show on a high note.
BLAST! plays Heinz Hall now through October 9, 2011. Tickets ($20-$60) are available by calling (412) 392-4900, visiting the Box Office at Theater Square (655 Penn Avenue) or online at www.pgharts.org. For more information about the PNC Broadway Across America-Pittsburgh 2011-2012 subscription series, please call (412) 456-1390. Groups of 10 or more may call 412-392-4819.