Maybe you caught them on PBS. Maybe you thought they were Riverdance with instruments or Stomp with a brass section. And Blast! is, to a degree, both.
This new musical extravaganza, which uses drum and bugle corps the way Riverdance uses Irish step dancers, is currently traveling the country with an eye on Broadway. From its U.S. premiere at Boston's Wang Center, it has stopped in Milwaukee and recently played at Detroit's Masonic Temple Theatre, followed by Chicago's Ford Center-Oriental Theatre (Oct. 24-Nov. 5). The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC (Dec. 19 Jan. 14) concludes what Dodger Theatricals spokespersons are calling the show’s “teaser tour.” A full-scale national tour is planned to start in September 2001.
What happens in between is still up in the air, though the producers are keen on bringing Blast! to Broadway this season, if they can. No word on what theatre might get the show, but a number of large-scale and/or long-running musicals are shuttering this season, opening the doors of big auditoriums that would seem appropriate for a big show such as Blast!.
Born in the heartland — Bloomington, Indiana, to be exact — Blast! evolved from the drum corps Star of Indiana. The group's artistic director James Mason, after carrying the company to a world championship at the Drum Crops International World Championships in 1991, began to shape Star of Indiana from a 128 member group to a theatrical show. In 1999, Blast! debuted at the Apollo Hammersmith in London in a 68-person version.
The U.S. touring company has been pared down to 60, performers ranging in ages from 18 to 31, a majority of them having played their instrument since the age of 11. A vast array of musical impliments are used in the show from the familiar — trumpet, trombone, snare drums — to the exotic like mellophones, euphoniums, a large surdo, mark trees and the vibraphone. The music is complimented by traditional marching band flag and sabre corps, who fling their brightly colored banners and wooden rifles to the flys in choreographed routines. The musicians too get involved in the marching.
Blast! consists of some 15 numbers, including one musical theatre number, "Gee, Officer Krupke" from West Side Story. Also on the program:
Lee's "Color Wheel"
Talbot's "Split Complimentaries"
Ferguson and Lane's "Everybody Loves the Blues"
Copland's "Simple Gifts/Appalachian Spring"
Hannum-Lee-Rennick's "Bettery Battle"
Ponce's "Color Wheel Too"
Epperson and Venderkolff's "Tangerinamadidge"
Mangoine's "Land of Make Believe"
Miki's "Marimba Spiritual"
Spiro's "Earth Beat"
A dozen of those numbers have been preserved on an RCA Victor recording, available in the U.S. since Aug. 22. The recording was made both in December, 1999 at the London Apollo Hammersmith and in July, 2000 at the Indiana University Auditorium. Blast! was also broadcast on PBS in August, 2000.
For tickets to see Blast!, please contact the individual venues. Blast! is represented on the road by Dodger Theatricals. Blast! is on the web at http://www.blasttheshow.com.