New York Soaks in a Spring Rain of French Dance

Those who conceived Blast!, now at the Broadway Theatre, must have decided that what pushes spectators' buttons is more brass and percussion instruments than anyone has ever seen on a stage at once. The result is a hypercharged mix of halftime displays, parade-ground drills, dancing, and the athletic fervor of drum groups like the Japanese Kodo. The horns are shiny; most of the players (predominantly white) seem to be recent college graduates, coached to move and to project 1000-watt enthusiasm.

Splashy effects abound—some beguiling, some corny. When the players prowl onstage, unit by unit, while Ravel's Bolero swells to its heated climax, you get a visualization of pure crescendo, but when have you ever seen cymbal players who stroke their flanks with their instruments while awaiting their next crash? In a well-played blues number, a stellar trumpeter, lowered from the flies, delivers his solo standing on a blue chair in midair. Men strapped into parade drums duel not only musically; they shove each other around.

Banners and other bright-colored objects are waved and juggled ad infinitum. A couple of cheesy pas de deux seem extraneous. Did it strike no one (director James Mason; choreographers Jim Moore, George Pinney, and John Vanderkolff) as curious that the performers sing the Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts" and then segue into an all-brass rendition of Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring while green silk flags waft and weapon-like green boards fly through the glittering air?

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