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Matthew Bourne's Sharp With Scissorhands

There tends to be a fine line between dance aficionados and theatergoers, both of which hold their favored art form near to their hearts, and as with many forms of entertainment, a cringe is induced with any utterance of the word "crossover."

Tony and Olivier Award-winning choreographer/director Matthew Bourne has crossed the line of dance and theatre before, perhaps most famously with Swan Lake, but with his latest, Edward Scissorhands, Bourne has crafted a visual masterpiece.

Bourne cuts to the heart of Edward Scissorhands with his approachable dance interpretation, picking up on the despair of the title character's struggle for acceptance in a superficial anywhere American neighborhood and delivering on stage a wildly entertaining dance-theatre experience.

Based on the 1990 Tim Burton film, starring Johnny Depp, Edward Scissorhands is a macabre fairytale spin on Beauty and the Beast with a little Frankenstein thrown into the mix. Edward (Richard Winsor), a scissor-handed yet extremely tender man, reaches out to a pastel-envisioned suburban community, only to be gawked at and ultimately betrayed before being run out of town, although not before he falls in love with his adopted family's daughter, Kim (Hannah Vassallo).

Turning this cult-classic film into a theatrical dance piece had an interesting path to the stage says Bourne in production notes:  "It was unlike any other movie I'd seen.  The Edward character touched me because he was symbolic of feeling different from everyone else… It wasn't until two friends of mine, George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, who were working on the music for Mary Poppins, asked me what I thought would make a good musical.  I said, 'Edward Scissorhands.'"

Many familiar scenes from the film have not made it to the stage, but with help from original screenplay writer Caroline Thompson, Bourne creates something familiar and succinct with the original concept.

Although Bourne's choreography is easily enjoyed, it is the brilliant production values on display that truly make Scissorhands shine.  Designer Lez Brotherston astounds with his wondrous sets and vibrant costumes, including the iconic design of Edward's scissor equipped getup.  Cumbersome costumes would seem to refrain a dancer from mastering their performance, but Brotherston works his magic, for which he is well known from past designs including his Tony Award-winning work on Swan Lake and Oliver Award-winning work on Cinderella.  Howard Harrison's lighting design illuminates the stage and Brotherston's sets with a perfect balance of eeriness and warmth.

As original film composer Danny Elfman, whose music was Bourne's inspiration for Scissorhands, was unable to spend time adapting his music for the show, Oliver Award winner Terry Davies (The Car Man and Play Without Words) stepped in and found a way to beef up the original score while retaining the overall feel of Elfman's work, which blends with the show seamlessly.  Sound design is by Paul Groothuis.

Some of Bourne's choreography lacks profound substance during certain moments throughout the evening, but overall the show comes together thanks to the enduring love of the story at hand.  During a magical duet between Edward and Kim, taking place in the sparse garden of his castle on the hill, the graceful nature of their love, against all odds, comes across with Bourne's sympathetic direction.

Due to the strenuous nature the show, all the roles are double cast, with Sam Archer and Richard Winsor alternating as Edward along with Kerry Biggin and Hannah Vassallo as Kim Boggs.  Other standout performances on opening night came from Michela Meazza as the oversexed Joyce Monroe (alternate Mikah Smillie) and James Leece doing a West Side Story type bad boy Jim Upton (alternate Adam Galbraith).

Scissorhands, presented by A New Adventures, Martin McCallum and March Platt Production, is a nice touch for the holiday season at the Ahmanson Theatre, as it runs through December 31, 2006.  For tickets visit the Center Theatre Group box office, located at 135 N. Grand Avenue in Los Angeles, or by phone at 213-628-2772.  Tickets can also be purchased online at  Prices range from $30-$90.

Photos by Bill Cooper (Top:  L-R Mami Tomotani, Richard Winsor and Etta Murfitt; Middle Richard Winsor and Kerry Biggin)

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