Rockwell Table & Stage, which is famous for its “Unauthorized Musical Parody Of…” (UMPO) series and more, is back with a funny and genuine holiday offering in The Fuse Project’s “Scissorhands,” inspired by the 1990 film, which arguably solidified Tim Burton, Danny Elfman, and Johnny Depp on the Hollywood map. The production, which opened on December 7th, has been extended through the end of January 2019.
Existing in its own fantastical space outside the UMPO universe, though very much infused with classic and contemporary hits, “Scissorhands” tones down the comedy just a little bit, supplementing the rest with drama that mixes organically and seamlessly with the production’s hysterical moments. UMPO creator, Kate Pazakis, lends her invaluable ingenuity as co-writer, and Bradley Bredeweg (the other co-writer) directs a show that, despite its cold and icy setting, warms the hearts of its audience members, who find themselves being moved as much as they’re made to laugh.
The creative team and skilled house band (led by musical director Gregory Nabours) have styled and fashioned an immersive visual and aural soundscape, which ingeniously renders the illusion of snow and flying hedge particles, and beckons its observers to fix their attention on this hilarious and heart-rending tale. Lighting designer Joey Guthman impressively captures the darkened ambiance and Brian Joseph Marchini ensures that the performers’ voices boom and resound with ominousness and hope. Moreover, choreographers Chris Downey and SaraAnne Fahey bring an infectious inventiveness to the dance sequences, and production/costume designer Chadd McMillan hits a home run – especially with the look and feel of the eponymous character.
With scars, disheveled hair, and sharp phalanges, Jordan Kai Burnett, a graduate of Boston’s Emerson College, excels as the misunderstood and frightened Scissorhands, who is brought into the world by an equally mysterious Inventor – played by Dionne Gipson. Burnett, who has few speaking lines, acts compellingly with her body language and poignant facial expressions, maneuvering her scissorhands with a compelling dexterity not unlike an experienced puppeteer. She finds her character’s modus operandi, which is anchored between what it means to be human or human-like, and whether such finite distinctions really matter, among surroundings that are not so open to one who is different and can’t be neatly labeled. Of course, Burnett sings with a spirited abandon, as well, during numbers like The Cranberries’ “Zombie,” American Authors’ “Best Day of My Life,” and several others.
As the Inventor, Gipson matches Burnett’s solemnity and is fueled by a sensitivity and purposefulness aimed at those intolerant of her miraculous creation. With tremendous emotion, Gipson howls and belts a riveting version of Aerosmith’s “Dream On” and puts a memorable final stamp on the proceedings with a powerful and plaintive tour-de-force performance of Florence + The Machine’s “Shake It Out.” Suffice it to say, Gipson’s interpretation of the role would make Vincent Price proud.
Emma Hunton is Peg, the sincerest of mothers, who graciously invites Scissorhands into her home. Hunton’s Peg represents a wise woman with an enlightened and moral perspective, who looks upon those dissimilar from her with healthy curiosity and concern. For this reason, she is also hard on herself when things go awry, fervently atoning with “All Apologies” (by Nirvana), which Hunton vocalizes with a soul-rocking gravitas.
Furthermore, Natalie Masini offers a refreshing take on Winona Ryder’s original conceptualization of Kim, daughter to Peg, who leaves behind her boorish boyfriend, Jim (portrayed on-point by Keir Kirkegaard), in order to be with Scissorhands. Masini simmers with sadness and sizzles with righteous anger at how poorly her town has received Scissorhands. And, she communicates her character’s grievances through song, with rousing and goosebumps-inducing duets (with Barnett) of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” (the contemplative version by T.V. Carpio) and “Shallow” (by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper). When Kim climactically breaks up with Jim, attendees can feel Masini’s empowered indignation when she scornfully pushes Kirkegaard’s Jim, cathartically punctuated during each “oh, oh” of Taylor Swift’s “Trouble.”
Finally, the message of acceptance conveyed by “Scissorhands” comes across as authentically as it does because it is buttressed by instances of appropriate lightheartedness offered by Ryan O’Connor, Carly Casey, and Morgan Smith, who depict the zany Helen, saucy and smitten Joyce, and the Christian-conservative Esmerelda, respectively. Jointly, they perform an uproarious and knee-slapping rendition of the Scissor Sisters’ “Let’s Have a Kiki.” Individually, O’Connor is a veritable comic when singing into a phone receiver about how his character can’t hear Casey’s Joyce during Lady Gaga’s “Telephone;” Casey entertains with great ecstasy when her Joyce sensually comes on to Scissorhands amid Gaga’s “Edge of Glory;” and Smith nearly steals the show with her take-no-prisoners commitment to Madonna’s “Like a Prayer.”
Altogether, “Scissorhands” has made for an extraordinary and hauntingly beautiful production that succeeds on its own accord at Rockwell Table & Stage. Whether one is a Tim Burton fan or not, it is undoubtedly a spectacle spliced with crowd-pleasing comedy and a drama inclusive of a deeper and impactful meaning that is cogitated on well after the curtain call.
By popular demand, The Fuse Project’s “Scissorhands” run will be extended on Saturday and Sundays through the end of January. The hit show, “The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Stranger Things,” will come back on Thursday and Friday nights for January 2019 and then go back to four shows, Thursday through Sunday in February. Please go to Rockwell-LA.com for times and tickets.