Matthew Bourne doesn’t mind if you mistake Edward Scissorhands, his dance adaptation of the 1990 Tim Burton film, for a musical.
”You can forgive people for getting it wrong,” says the British choreographer, known for his adventuresome takes on classic ballets, such as the 1995 male dominated Swan Lake. ”When we were in Charlotte, a vast majority of the audience was waiting for Edward to burst into song.”
But, he adds, ”this particular piece is as close to a musical as it is to a ballet. It falls somewhere in between.”
Bourne chose to adapt the gothic, sentimental tale of a melancholy, young ”Frankenstein-like” creation with blades for hands because Danny Elfman’s music for the film ”struck me quite strongly as something that felt quite theatrical and very moving. It had emotion in it and would be good for telling a story.” He notes that a lot of ballets are based on myths and fairy tales and ”this seemed to be a contemporary fairy story in many ways.”
With Burton’s blessing, and Elfman’s enchanting score as a base (with additional music by Terry Davis), Bourne set to work crafting an intensely creative evening-length dance piece. The biggest challenge, Edward’s long razor-blade digits, proved to be an inspiration rather than a hindrance. ”As a choreographer,” Bourne says from his London home, ”it’s always great to have restrictions. [The mentality of] ‘You can do anything’ is actually the hardest thing to do…. The main problem was trying to come up with duet material for Edward and the girl playing Kim, his sort of love interest. Could he lift her? What could they do together?… The whole story of trying to get close to someone who has this dangerous aspect to them was a really nice idea to play with.”
Bourne, who this summer is workshopping a male version of Romeo and Juliet, thinks Edward Scissorhands will resonate strongly with same-sex audience members.
”Audiences identify with Edward individually in that his hands come to represent anything about any of us when we’ve felt differently in a community,” he says. ”I think that’s very potent for a gay audience.” So, while he concedes that gay themes are not the central draw of the piece, he acknowledges that ”it has a gay sensibility about it, inevitably because I’m gay.”
Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands plays Feb. 13-18 in the Kennedy Center Opera House. Tickets start at $29. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.