Robinson Center Music Hall
There is definitely a Broadway sheen on “Blast,” a fun musical and visual adventure based around the traditional outdoor marching band. For example, the leaping fellows in tights, doing ballet moves, that frankly tended to get a bit old as the show went on.
That’s not the say that the moving ballet-meets-a-cappella-meets-trumpets of “Appalachian Spring/Simple Gifts” wasn’t perhaps the best number of the night. Or maybe second best, next to the closing “Malaguena,” which sounded like the Texas Tech University band had taken the stage, blasting out this South of the Border-style favorite of football halftimes in Texas.
“Blast” brings together some versatile young people, some who can both blow a French horn and leap through the air, whatever the moment calls for. The group also covers the spectrum of brassy music, from classical Copland to Chuck Mangione (“Land of Make Believe”) jazz fusion. There are times set aside for fun drum battles that the crowd loves, and there are times for the troupe to playfully mix with the audience while blowing home-made horns/tubes. The drummers even entertained in the lobby at intermission, finding anything handy to put their sticks to. Marimba, xylophone, shakers, timbales and much more (61 brass instruments, 234 percussion pieces) were put to use during the two-hour show as each performance seemed designed to upstage the previous one.
What we loved most were the moments when the 25 or so musicians actually moved in marching-band style across the stage, while three flag-bearing pretties slithered their way through the horn players with their double-swing flags. The rifle-twirling corps was five or so guys. The costumes changed rapidly throughout, and the smiles never left the players’ faces. Red and black dominated the “Carmen”-like stage movements as the horns blared “Malaguena.”
Still, we couldn’t help remembering how moving the whole “Appalachian Spring” music number seemed during the first set. Green was the predominant color, and the group turned to their easiest instrument –- their voices in harmony – for a stirring rendition. Copland would have been proud, if not Sousa.