Edward Scissorhands

REVIEW by Willard Manus

LOS ANGELES -- Matthew Bourne, once considered the enfant terrible of the dance world, has slowly metaphorsed from outsider to insider over the years. Commencing with his daring all-male version of Swan Lake and his film-noirish Play Without Words, he has slowly moved into the mainstream as his career progressed and prospered. Having become one of the most famous choreographers on the scene, he recently returned to the Ahmanson Theatre with his latest production, an adaptation of Tim Burton's 1990 movie, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS.

Bourne was a big fan of the film, which tells the fantastical story of a kid with shears for hands who is shunned by most of his peers because of his unfortunate infirmity. "It was like any other movie I'd ever seen," said Bourne in a Performances Magazine interview. "The Edward character touched me because he was symbolic of feeling different from everyone else. But it didn't occur to me to turn it into a piece of theatre because it was before I started doing bigger shows."

Once he was able to staff a larger company and cope with expensive budgets, Bourne set about turning a feature film into a dance/theatre piece. First he met with Caroline Thompson, co-writer of the Scissorhands screenplay, to map out the show's storyline. "It couldn't be a re-creation of the film, I'm not into those kinds of productions," he said. "Caroline was open to many new ideas, as long as the story beats and the concepts for the character and how the people in the town relate to him were there.

"We added a prologue and Caroline pushed for a different ending, which she felt was more poetic. If you haven't seen the film for several years, you might think what happens on stage is in the film, but in fact only one scene mirrors the film in any way at all."

The Bourne/Thompson collaboration has resulted in a glitzy, high-energy show which, like most of Bourne's work, is a crowd-pleaser. Aided greatly by Lez Brotherston's imaginative costumes and sets, and by Howard Harrison's spectacular lighting design, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS casts a magical spell that is well sustained over a two-act span. Terry Davies' score, based on Danny Elfman's themes from the original movie, provides lots of jazzy riffs for the dancers.

And what dancers they are. Beginning with Sam Archer and Richard Winsor, who share the lead role responsibilities, the thirty-odd dancers in EDWARD SCISSORHANDS do exceptional work throughout, responding to Bourne's choreography with characteristic spirit and aplomb. Hannah Vassalio as Kim, the blonde vamp who tempts and teases poor Edward, and James Leece as Brad, her bullying and jealous boyfriend, were standouts, along with Etta Murfitt as Edward's guardian.

Bourne packs some surprises into this version of SCISSORHANDS. Just when you begin to think his new work is too much of a cartoon, Bourne shifts gears and goes deep into the dark side of Edward's battle with the smug, narrow-minded, moralistic world around him, the red-state world of middle America.

Next up at the Ahmanson is the February production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? starring Kathleen Turner and Bill Irwin, directed by Anthony Page. Click on centertheatregroup.org