I have always been a musical theater queen. Growing up back in the 80s. my second cassette tape (after my first purchase of Madonna’s Like a Virgin) was a compilation of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Broadway hits. (I still wonder why I never came out sooner. Of course, I blame my parents’ atmosphere of naivete/sexlessness at home but I also blame myself for not making the connections. I mean, Weber and Madonna were as simple a formula as 1 + 1 back then – now, where everyone can seem to be into just about everything without falling into a box, is a different story.) I had known every word to I Don’t Know How to Love Him after listening to Yvonne Elliman’s rendition of this anthem to the circumstantially celibate and their crushes everywhere before learning what was material to school and homework. Now, in NYC, I go see Broadway musicals as much as I happily can. Plays, not so much. I have recently enjoyed Douglas Carter Beane’s The Little Dog Laughed last fall and the Public’s Theater in the Park presentation of Brecht’s Mother Courage (from a Tony Kushner translation) last summer. (But even the latter seems some sort of musical hybrid with Meryl Streep battering her heart on stage both with word and song.) The ratio of plays to musicals that I go to see is quite heavily disproportioned. Dance doesn’t even fall on my radar. (My two left feet are more than enough explanation.) Opera remains the other frontier.

So it was quite a welcome treat when I went to go see Edward Scissorhands at BAM on Thursday night. I revel in every new opportunity and going to see a dance performance is as fresh as they come.

However, I was not without prejudice. I knew this was a much-hyped Matthew Bourne piece. But I had seen Mary Poppins at the end of January and I was so underwhelmed, or, rather, unimpressed. Bourne had also choreograohed this Broadway spectacle. Maybe I had such high hopes for it that night that I had set myself up for such frustration. But could I blame myself?! Mary Poppins is, after all, up in the canon of great musicals and to do a mediocre stage adaptation of it would be a disservice to the Sherman brothers and their company and a dishonor to everyone who made the 1964 film a classic like, ahem, Julie Andrews and Dick van Dyke.) It had also been a London import and I shamelessly have more respect for the West End than for Broadway. (I had seen Mamma Mia in London when it first came out and was bowled over by it. I saw it again on Broadway last year to take my family out to see it and regretted paying such a high price for something so flat.) I thought Bourne and his fellow English would deliver Poppins on Broadway. But I was disappointed. I mean, Gavin Lee walking like SpiderBert all over the the 4 corners of the stage was fascinating and Ashley Brown flying into thin air as if SuperMary was heart-stopping. But it seemed the gimmickry took precedence over the choreography. When the flying umbrella becomes the highlight of the show (like the flying car in Chitty Chitty Gang Bang was) instead of the people holding the umbrella, then I think the artistic draw from the audience becomes problematic.

Taking the train from the city into Brooklyn with Tim and his college roomie (who went to see it with me) Thursday night, I pondered over the Poppins disbelief and decided to suspend it and box it under Bourne Disneyfied. As soon as I sat myself , I looked around and began to wonder if I was indeed in Downtown Brooklyn watching Scissorhands at BAM or in Midtown West watching Terrence McNally’s new play, Some Men. The audience was (mostly) gay. gay, gay all the way. (I even bumped into 2 friends I knew in the restroom, but not in the George Michael sense.) There were, of course. hetero couples too and some family couplings. I, unfortunately, had to sit right behind a girl (who kept on asking her mom what was going on through the show) and her brother,a boy who had an incessant cough problem. (Her mom’s female friend kept on giving her water. I could only stop myself from pulling her hair and telling her to give the kid a cough drop instead to stop the annoying coughing.)

I’d have to say it was an odd choice for a ballet adaptation, Tim Burton, long shears and all. But, like a Tim Burton movie, it was terrific. Hearing the movie’s dreamy music live was otherworldly and watching the sets come to life (since they were integral in telling the story on stage as much as the performers were) was enchanting. The stage’s transformation from the dark cemetery atop the hill to Middle America’s everysuburbia to a lavish Christmastime banquet hall all tied in by the topiaries constistent in their form but constantly changing in their attire was thrilling in their seamlessness.

I’ve never been a good critic of dance but I was struck by how good, not great, most of the pieces were. Some of them actually left me wanting for more when the pieces, each an amalgam of pantomimic deftness and dexterous ballet, ended. But, almost at the end of Act II, during the Farewell Duet, where Edward danced alone on stage with Kim, I saw the genius, if not the conceit, in Bourne’s show. Here was a man dancing ballet with a woman while he had foot-long shears attached to his hand wherein one small mistake in movement could end up being a big bloody one. (I knew these shears were not merely dull blades as, in a display of brilliance in the middle of Act I, Edward actually made a topiary, cutting and shearing through leaves with the blades on his fingers.) The two principals were gliding and comingling and, yes, dancing in every possible sense all across the stage that was both grand in its effort and most graceful in its execution. It was riveting and breathtaking, all the way into the end, when in one final moment of spectacle, confetti rained from the ceiling which, coupled with brilliant lighting, gave the illusion of falling snow.

I wish I had seen Swan Lake. Tim’s friend saw it and claimed that this piece, Bourne’s big all-male coming-out piece, was genius all throughout. But I’m glad I saw Scissorhannds. I enjoyed the whole experience — the sublime sets, the wordless music, its pure dancing. It’s always a good thing when I learn to like even more a new genre. I find it even better when I renew my admiration for someone I’ve quite fallen less fond of. I mean, I even bought the CD of Bourne’s show as I rushed out of the theater, holding Tim’s hand on the street on the way home that rainy night.

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