Ten years after winning the 2001 Tony for Best Special Theatrical Event, Blast! has finally made its way to Nashville’s TPAC when the show opened Tuesday, September 27 for their first of eight local performances. Not only did Tuesday mark the show’s Nashville debut, it’s also the very first stop for the multi-talented 30+ member company as they embark on their current National tour with a brand new version of the award-winning show. Having never seen the Broadway show, or the subsequent 2001 Emmy-winning PBS special, Blast! An Explosive Musical Celebration, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the latest incarnation helmed by original producer and artistic director, James Mason. What I found was a show that lives up to, and surpasses it’s name in every way.
That’s not to say Blast! blasts off with uptempo numbers from the beginning. To the contrary, early on, several Blast! cast members who form a wind ensemble are joined by a drum corp that eases the audience into their performance with a extended seductive segment. The show starts with Ouverture, composed by frequent Cirque du Soleil composer Violaine Corradi. Members of Blast!‘s color guard/modern dance troupe are then featured in Color Wheel, by the show’s own musical director, Jefferson Lee.
Blast! continues to entice the audience with Split Complimentaries, composed by Josh Talbott, which once again incorporates everything from modern dance to traditions steeped in drum and flag corps as well as hints of military marching and riffle corp rigidity.
That morphs into Everybody Loves The Blues , a finger snappin’ homage to the sounds of Beale Street, as Courlton Cochran, one of Blast!‘s featured solo trumpeter’s blows the audience away. The rest of the troupe, looking cool in all-black, complete with Blues Brothers-esque shades, even provide a little chairography reminiscent of Janet Jackson‘s Miss You Much music video.
Loss, composed by Maynard Ferguson and Nathan Lane, is next, featuring yet another trumpet solo, this time by Evan Harris. The emotional number is the perfect lead-in for the show’s next segment, as the music transitions from Memphis Blues to Americana. New for this tour, American Plains Celebration represents just that, a slice of middle America as only Blast! can do it. Listen carefully and you’ll even hear Turkey In The Straw done like you’ve never heard it before.
Next, Blast! keeps the mood light, but the talent heavy with a percussionist battle between snare drum soloist Lance Kendl and Brad Broomfield as the two give a whole new meaning to hand-to-hand combat. The speed and inventiveness with which these two bang the drum, any way but slowly, is awe-inspiring. I just hope they don’t take the minimal applause during their number and an indication of the audience lack of enthusiasm. I for one hated to clap, for fear I’d miss one single incredible beat. Battery Battle leads to Medea, in which other members of Blast! offer up a fast-paced rhythmic rumble that seems to be part West Side Story, part 007.
Act II is just as impressive and picks up the pace considerably. Color Wheel Too, YellaPalooza, Lemontech and Tangerinamadige offer everything from fabulous wind instruments, modern dance, flag and rifle corp to a fun didgeridoo-filled number during which members of the group make their way into the audience.
Blast! turns into a euphoric fairyland with Land of Make Believe, during which Harris again performs a solo, this time on a flugelhorn. Jennifer Kearns also offers up a beautiful French Horn solo and Jason Moncrief is featured on Tuba.
From make-believe to the world we live in, Spiritual of the Earth Marimba Spiritual and Earth Beat sound as though they could have been lifted right out of the jungles of Africa. Several members of the troupe even appeared to be playing adenkum gourds or udu drums during these numbers.
With the set lit by a vibrant red glow, the wind ensemble dressed in all black, the flag and rifle corp members dressed in red and black with red rifles and flags, the show comes to a much-to-soon dramatic end with Malanguena. Originally composed by Ernesto Lecuona as the sixth and final movement of his breathtaking Suite Andalucia, Malanguena provides the perfect end to a perfect night of live theatre. Harris and Cochran provide solos as does trombone player Jeff Harrigan. Among the featured dancers during the finale, Samia Mooney and Tyler Richards are front and center. During the finale, there’s so much going on musically, rhythmically and visually, there’s no way to see it all. Nonetheless, you’re guaranteed to have a Blast! trying.
Blast! continues its Nashville run now thru Sunday, October 2 with a 7:30pm performance on Thursday, September 29, an 8pm performance Friday, September 30, matinee and evening performances Saturday at 2pm and 8pm and Sunday at 1pm and 6pm. For tickets or more information about the show, CLICK HERE. For more information about Blast!, CLICK HERE. If you can’t make it to the show in Nashville, plan a road trip, as the show travels to The Grand Opera House in Macon, GA next week, followed by dates in Pittsburgh, PA; Champaign, IL, Whitewater, WI, Mason City, IA and more throughout the end of 2011, on through 2012. For a complete list of tour dates, CLICK HERE.
Next up at TPAC will be the anticipated return of Wicked. Wicked will enjoy an extended run in Nashville with shows from October 19 through November 6. for tickets and information, CLICK HERE.
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