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Tuesday, May 1, 2007 - Page updated at 02:00 AM

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Theater Review

"Scissorhands" makes the cut as a hybrid of dance and drama

Seattle Times theater critic

Think twice before asking Edward Scissorhands to dance. Those long-bladed hedge clippers he has for hands are not just awkward to hold, they're hazardous.

Still, if Edward is as agile as leading British choreographer-director Matthew Bourne would have you believe, why not take a spin around the dance floor with him?

This wistful creature with chopper hands, spiky hair, wide eyes and a "heart fashioned to be susceptible" to "love and sympathy" (to borrow from Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein") is at the 5th Avenue Theatre through May 13.

Like much of Bourne's adaptation of a Tim Burton screen fable, Edward is ... well, disarming.

Be forewarned: Bourne's New Adventures company conveys Edward's story without spoken words. Instead, vigorously expressive dance and pantomime, a sumptuous musical score, witty stage pictures and dramatic lighting effects do the job.

The two-hour show is broader (satirically and romantically) than Burton's more nuanced film. But as this unusual hybrid of dance and drama gains steam, it becomes a captivating entertainment for most ages.

Like Burton's fetchingly weird film, Bourne's "Edward Scissorhands" centers on a sweet-natured android built by an eccentric scientist. The inventor dies before he can replace the boy's scissor mitts with proper hands. Years later, the orphaned, ageless Edward (on opening night played by Richard Winsor , who heads up one of two alternating casts) drifts from his Gothic aerie into suburban, 1950s America.

Now playing

"Edward Scissorhands," adapted by Matthew Bourne, plays Tuesdays-Sundays through May 13, 5th Avenue Theatre, 1308 Fifth Ave., Seattle; $20-$73 (206-625-1900 or

Edward becomes an object of fascination to clonelike lawn-mowing hubbies and gossipy housewives, especially when they realize he can snip up imaginative hairdos and topiary in a jiffy. But when the novelty wears off, mass repulsion and hysteria follow.

American chauvinism and conformity are satirized in cartoony ways. "Edward Scissorhands" also can serve as an allegory about the alien status of the artist in a culture of conformity; or as a quasi-Freudian study of a boy/man who longs for love, but whose embrace may prove lethal.

But you can skip the metaphors, and sit back to enjoy the lovely pas de deux, between Edward and the girl he adores, Kim (blithe Hannah Vassallo) — including one circling a neo-classical ice sculpture.

Halloween, a suburban barbeque and a Christmas party provide opportunities for vivacious ensemble dances favoring scissor-legged lifts and crisp turns, and some leaping, jazzy jiving that recalls Jerome Robbins' teen dances in "West Side Story."

These numbers, though not complex or especially original, are good vivacious fun, as performed by a limber ensemble of actor-dancers. Fresher are the signature walks, gestures and facial reactions of the main characters. Every other move of a sultry neighborhood vamp is a tango. Kim's macho boyfriend revels in suave bravado.

The jerky puppet-on-a-string bearing of Edward (when he's not sweeping Kim up in a fantasy-ballet duet a la Agnes DeMille) is beguiling. And the prowling, skulking contingent of the town's religious zealots suggests an homage to Martha Graham.

Lez Brotherston's settings evolve smoothly from haunted mansion, to pastel, mini-suburban tract houses to topiary wonderland, but his technicolor period costumes are the real scene-stealers — along with Howard Harrison's sublime lighting.

With words absent, the narrative depends a great deal on the music. Happily, composer-arranger Terry Davies expands the tinkly and rhapsodic themes in Danny Elfman's memorable film score, adding captivating jazz and neo-classical colorations of his own. It is a luscious orchestral piece — played with finesse under the baton of Andrew Bryan.

Misha Berson:

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company



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