Scissorhands – A Musical Inspired by the Film

The stage is awash in dim blue lights, a doll house sits center stage with Edward’s scissor hands placed precisely in front of it. The beautiful intro to Danny Elfman’s haunting score begins, the chorus of “ooh”s reaches a crescendo, and snow begins to fall. The doll house is raised high above the stage allowing for Edward, a timid, unfinished creature clad in gothic black leather and a multitude of buckles, to enter and slip on his titular Scissorhands.

Rockwell Table & Stage has become one of the go-to venues for musical theater versions of popular movies (UMPO: Clueless) and television shows (UMPO: Stranger Things). Perfect for the holiday season, they’ve worked their magic on arguably one of Tim Burton’s best films, Edward Scissorhands. Even with a handful of humorous moments – the energetic “Let’s Have a Kiki” song, as well as several pointed jabs at our current political culture – The Fuse Project’s Scissorhands is not a parody like Rockwell’s brilliant UMPO Series. Instead, Scissorhands is a love letter to the moving story of an outsider trying to find acceptance in a disapproving world. Mixing the film’s narrative with songs ranging from traditional Christmas carols to “Shallow” from 2018’s A Star is Born, Scissorhands is pure perfection.

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Co-written and executive produced by Kate Pazakis (creator of the UMPO Series) and Bradley Bredeweg (creator, executive producer and showrunner of The Fosters), and directed by Bredeweg, Scissorhands is a masterclass in how to adapt cinematic entertainment into live theater. The actors weave throughout the audience with some slight interaction, but the bulk of the action takes place in the center of Rockwell’s restaurant, theater-in-the-round-style. While this creates a few obstructed views, it also facilitates an intimacy between the performers and audience; we are looking in on –possibly judging – Edward, along with the rest of the suburbanites within the story. I also got swept away in the clever effects sprinkled throughout the show. Since the film features many scenes of bush trimming, hair cutting and snow falling, I was curious how that would translate to the stage. In an ingenious move, the combination of confetti and cast-powered, hand-held fans brings the whimsical sequences to life before our eyes.

To make room for the added, well-chosen songs played by the talented live band, several plot points are left out of the stage show. For example, Edward’s dog-grooming work is cut out – he goes straight from bushes to women’s hair – and the character of Kim’s brother is completely eliminated. I would have loved to have seen how Scissorhands tackled the dog scene, but it turns out I didn’t miss either subplot at all; I was completely enamored of the events actually transpiring on the stage.

As expected from any production at Rockwell, the mostly female cast is impeccable. Jordan Kai Burnett plays the quietly sensitive Edward, in a nice gender switch-up. Edward’s frenzied panic over the death of her creator is heart-breaking in the grief-stricken “Zombie.” Emma Hunton (UMPO: Stranger Things) is absolutely superb (again) as Peg, the naïve, suburban Avon lady who tries to integrate Edward into her family. Hunton digs into Peg’s regret at disrupting Edward and her family’s lives in her epic rendition of Nirvana’s “All Apologies.” In another welcomed gender-swapped role, Dionne Gipson plays Edward’s creator. In a very different take on the character than Vincent Price’s gothic mad scientist, Gipson’s inventor is a strong and supportive woman who has created Edward because she cannot have a child of her own. Gipson slays her vocals during the opening “Dream On,” as her character encourages Edward before tragically dying, leaving Edward unfinished. Natalie Masini’s Kim, Peg’s daughter and Edward’s love interest, is not a typical ingénue. With a fierce presence – especially during the infuriated “Trouble” – Masini excels in her character’s dramatic emotional arc. She and Burnett make an absolutely stunning duo in the sweet and tender “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” and the wonderfully moving “Shallow.”

The supporting cast deftly plays a variety of unique and feisty characters: Carly Casey is the sassy and predatorial Joyce; Morgan Smith plays the discriminating and religious Esmerelda; and Ryan O’Connor amusingly switches between nosy neighborhood gossip Helen and Peg’s ambivalent husband, Bill. This lively trio brings legitimate fun to the sentimental story, while Keir Kirkegaard’s Jim throws antagonism into the proceedings. Kirkegaard plays conceited Jim with panache, one moment showing off his six-pack abs, the next threatening harm to Edward and slapping girlfriend Kim. Each member of the cast is an expert singer and brings energy and enthusiasm to their roles.

I have loved Edward Scissorhands since it came out in 1990, and it is a story just as moving and poignant today. For me, seeing it on stage – and done so well! – brought a new appreciation to the piece and a new connection to the characters. I laughed as the neighborhood women gossiped on the “Telephone,” and actually found myself crying when Edward and Kim had to say goodbye. Scissorhands is a beautiful production of a truly moving and relatable story.

By popular demand, The Fuse Project’s Scissorhands has been extended through the end of January 2019 (Saturdays and Sundays). The hit show UMPO: Stranger Things will return in January, running Thursday and Friday nights before expanding to Thursdays through Sundays in February.  Go to www.Rockwell-LA.com for times and tickets.

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