BLENDING IS THE SECRET
EDWARD SCISSORHANDS AT AHMANSON
The haunting 1990 movie Edward Scissorhands was a groundbreaking effort for wünderkind filmmaking auteur Tim Burton and an early critical crossroads in Captain Jack Sparrow-Depp’s multi-layered acting career, so what could have been a better project for the miraculous Tony and five-time Olivier Award honored choreographer-director Matthew Bourne to transfer to the stage? Now making its North American debut and gloriously filling the cavernous Ahmanson Theatre stage, Bourne has once again taken a pre-existing work and reinvented it as a major dance piece for the ages, complete with a new score by Terry Davies—who previously collaborated with Bourne on both The Car Man and Play Without Words—that augments Danny Elfman’s original film compositions.
After global success with his truly inspired version of Swan Lake featuring an all-male feathered corp du ballet, his fanciful retellings of both Cinderella and The Nutcracker, the aforementioned The Car Man (based on Bizet’s Carmen) and Play Without Words (based on Pinter’s The Servant), all of which debuted in the States right here in El Lay at this same theatre, Bourne has created yet another gorgeously inventive production that helps our artistically parched ol’ town sparkle a bit for the season, despite the lack of snow anywhere but right here onstage during this production’s curtaincall.
This touching gothic fairytale tells the story of a lightning-zapped boy reanimated by a lonely inventor who dies leaving him alone and unfinished. Left with only scissors for hands, Edward (played opening night by Richard Winsor, who alternates in the role with Sam Archer) struggles to find his place in the strange new world emerging in America during the 1950’s, where a well-meaning suburban community struggles to see past his bizarre physical appearance to the sweetly vulnerable but gifted Edward within. From my own proudly pagan perspective, Edward Scissorhands offers a far better holiday lesson to be learned than Amahl and the Night Visitor ever hoped to convey.
Although Archer has also received kudos in the title role, it is difficult to imagine anyone more perfectly cast as Edward than Winsor, who not only is an incredibly forceful and inspired dancer, but as an actor gives a performance that lies somewhere between Chaplin and Buster Keaton. And if anyone is a fancier of fine male posteriors, be ready to praise set designer Lez Brotherston who, doubling as costumer, does a fine job of accentuating Winsor’s most notable attribute through his faux metal robot-ware. Michela Meazza is a gloriously reptilian foil for Winsor as Joyce Monroe, the randy town pump housewife, and the pair is particularly impressive in a dynamic barber chair tango as the tonsorially-gifted Edward trims her from Bacall to Lauper. The obviously Bourne-devoted supporting cast is uniformly up to the task of dancing the master’s ever-whimsical choreography, and each individually shines as finely tuned comedic actors as well.
Okay, so maybe this isn’t altogether a perfect effort, but hey—if you’re a rabid fan of Matthew Bourne, there are two ways to look at Edward Scissorhands. It would be easy to possibly be a tad disappointed by the predictability inherent in the work if you’re already familiar with the style and look of his previous productions, but I would rather take the more positive road and say I could watch any one of this man’s earlier efforts every week of my life without ever getting tired of them. I invite all grumblers to look instead upon this new piece as a delightfully unique return to the recognizable themes and remarkably individual style he conjured in his earlier successes.
With a specially added holiday scene included post-Burton and those impressive snowflakes descending through the guaranteed standing ovation on the heads of the gleefully appreciative and madly cheering Ahmanson patrons, a visit with Edward Scissorhands is the quintessential destination this year to spawn some world-class alternative holiday spirit without that familiar trio of annoyingly persistent ghosts, Der Bingle crooning “White Christmas,” or a rhyming cranky green goblin stealing little people’s presents from Whoville. Be there or be overpowered by all that rampant more traditional holiday goo.
The Ahmanson Theatre is located at 135 N. Grand Av. in the LA Music Center; for tickets, call (213) 628-2772.