Blast!, the first recipient of the newly-created Tony Award for Special Theatrical Event, took that blessing and turned it into an extension - albeit one not as long as they'd hoped. The drum and bugle corps had thought to continue beating and blaring through Jan. 6, 2002, at the Broadway Theatre, but now will hang up their sticks Sept. 23. Blast! was originally set to close June 3.
Previous to New York, Blast! enjoyed success in several major venues including Chicago and Washington, D.C. and in a PBS special earlier in 2000. A national tour, produced by Big Leagure Theatricals, began in September 2001.
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 had been pared down to 60 performers ranging in ages from 18 to 31, a majority of them having played their instrument since age 11. A vast array of musical implements are used in the show, from the familiar — trumpet, trombone, snare drums — to the more exotic, like mellophones, euphoniums, a large surdo, mark trees and the vibraphone.
The music is complemented by traditional marching-band flag and sabre corps, who fling their brightly-colored banners and wooden rifles to the fly space 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, 2000. 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, and repeated around the country.
Blast opened April 17. For tickets and information on Blast! call (212) 239-6200.
Blast! was represented on the road by in its pre-Broadway tour by Dodger Theatricals. The Broadway engagement is produced by Cook Group Incorporated and Star of Indiana, with Dodger Theatricals. Blast! is on the web at http://www.blasttheshow.com.