- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 23, 2000

If your favorite song is "I Love a Parade" or "76 Trombones" and you go to football games solely for the marching bands, then "Blast" will fit you like a majorette's uniform.

A spirited, musically and athletically gifted cast of 60 performs in what could be called the "Les Miserables" of drum-and-bugle corps shows. The young men and women play the drums, tuba, trombone, French horn and other instruments while dancing like the cast of a Janet Jackson video.

Occasionally, just to keep things interesting, they execute a back flip or cartwheel and simultaneously execute a musical solo or twirl any number of objects into the air — poles, gunlike objects, boomerangs. They also never stop smiling.

Much of "Blast" will remind you of "Stomp," "Riverdance" and "Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk" — the voracious energy of the performers, the infectious rhythm, the percussive beat that gets under your skin until you cannot help but shake your shoulders and stamp your feet to the beat.

The heavy-duty percussive moments work the best: the snappy snare-drum standoff in "Battery Battle" and a joyous drumming number in which Chippendalesesque cast members beat and bang on every surface they can find.

The opening number, "Bolero," slowly and sensuously builds in a crescendo, the mounting tension of the music underscored by the precise, repetitive movements of the performers.

In a quieter vein, the sunny and boppy rhythms of Chuck Mangione's "Land of Make Believe" will send your spirits soaring.

Similar to Riverdance's spinoff, "Lord of the Dance," "Blast" contains some cheesily arty moments, especially in "Color Wheel," when the cast flings multicolored flags in ways that are supposed to be poetic and profound but amount to a lot of flashy flag-waving. Seeing people running to and fro waving green flags is agreeable, but by the time we have spanned the rainbow and have gotten down to yellow, we are well over the thrill.

Most of the dancing is of the cheerfully sexy, Britney Spears/Christina Aguilera variety, but the sight of people bumping and grinding their pelvises while playing the trumpet is somewhat discomfiting.

But being too harsh on "Blast" seems rather gauche, like spitting on mom's apple pie. It is a toothy, enthusiastic tribute to parade bands and drum and bugle corps, after all, not a Stephen Sondheim work.

As long as you keep your spirits high and your aesthetic expectations low, this extravaganza is assuredly a crowd pleaser.{*}{*}{*}WHAT: "Blast"WHERE: Kennedy Center Opera House, F Street and New Hampshire Avenue NWWHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through Jan. 14. Additional matinees at 2 p.m. Dec. 27 and Dec. 28. No performances tomorrow or Christmas Day.TICKETS: $20 to $79PHONE: 202/467-4600 or 800/444-1324

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