Blast Is

blast directed by James Mason, with the company, presented by David and Ed Mirvish and House of Blues at the.

blast directed by James Mason, with the company, presented by David and Ed Mirvish and House of Blues at the Hummingbird Centre (1 Front East). Runs to June 29, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday, Saturday-Sunday 2 pm. $45-$75. 416-872-2262. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN

I admit I was skeptical about Blast, a marching-band spectacle featuring dozens of wholesome corn-fed young Americans twirling or blowing into things and making noise.But this wholly entertaining show is more than Stomp with brass instruments or Riverdance with batons. Whereas those other shows are deadeningly monotonous, Blast keeps reinventing itself, offering up different emotional, musical and literal colours.

The show begins with Ravel’s Bolero, a single drummer onstage, followed by brass and more and more musician/dancers (many performers do double and triple duty) until the work’s frenzied climax. Fine, but no surprises.

Things get interesting, though, with the ghostly image of a solo trumpet player suspended on a chair in the air. Surreal, in a Cirque kinda way.

What soon catapults the show into the realm of art is its glorious extended version of Copland’s Simple Gifts and Appalachian Spring, a pastoral yet rousing number that surprises with the sudden introduction of voices and the rapid interplay of movement and music.

A crowd-pleasing standoff between virtuosic snare drummers keeps upping the dramatic ante, and it’s incredibly brave to close the first act with a disturbing and violently chaotic performance art piece choreographed to Barber’s little-known ballet score, Medea.

The second act is filled with more wonders, drawing inspiration from jazz, show tunes and electronic music, including a version of Chuck Mangione’s Land Of Make Believe that will have even the most jaded theatregoer tapping her toes.

In a show that feels so unabashedly American, it’s too bad the performers aren’t a more ethnically diverse bunch (aren’t there any brass-playing Asians in the States?). And I spotted only one woman with a musical solo.

But never mind. Blast is about the joy of discovering and creating sounds. In all its noise-making and colourful pageantry, it’s a celebration of life.

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