I was not that big of a fan of the movie version of “Edward Scissorhands.” This Tim Burton-directed fairy tale played out like remedial John Waters where an innocent young man with scissors for hands has trouble fitting in with white-bread suburbia. This heavy-handed one-note film had its moments but basically existed to make goth kids feel better about themselves.
You can imagine my skepticism when I learned “Edward Scissorhands” had been adapted for the stage. With the production making a stop here in St. Louis at the Fox Theatre through March 11, I was instead delighted to have my expectations turned on their head.
By boiling the story down and interpreting the action through dance (a la “The Nutcracker”) Edward finds new life on the stage — full of emotion, humor, and wonder — and all without a single word being spoken.
The creation of a mad scientist on a hill, Edward (Richard Windsor) is made with scissors in place of hands, which has to be one of the dumbest concepts of all time. I don’t care how crazy of a mad scientist you are, when looking for a replacement for hands, scissors would have to be pretty far down the list, somewhere between broken glass and poison arrows. But I digress. Focus on the allegory.
Edward finds himself alone when the scientist suffers a heart attack, so he ventures down into the suburban wasteland below where he is adopted by the well-meaning Boggs family.
The neighborhood is initially creeped out by Edward, but he is soon embraced when his skill at hedge trimming and hairstyling is revealed. Edward also becomes sweet on the Boggs’ daughter, Kim (Hannah Vassalio), but finds himself an outcast with the rest of the high-school kids.
But the good vibes can’t last forever as a series of misunderstandings results in Edward being shunned by the neighborhood with the lesson being that having differences will result in rejection and that you should just give up and run out and buy as much black finger-nail polish and The Cure albums as you can get your hands on. OK, I added that last part; but high ideals aside, “Edward Scissorhands” is actually a very enjoyable production.
While the dancing wasn’t exactly spectacular, the choreography was impressive, especially with such a massive cast. The stage was typically full and busy, with so many subtle character moments happening simultaneously that you could go back for several viewings and see something you missed every time.
And by lifting a majority of Danny Elfman’s brilliant musical score from the movie version, the music helped provide another-wordly feel to the on-stage world of backyards and cul-de-sacs.
“Edward Scissorhands” also finds a subtle sense of humor on the stage that was nowhere to be seen in the movie. I especially liked the fantasy sequence where Edward dreams he has real hands and dances with Kim amidst a stage full of dancing topiary.
By removing the dialogue, the story gets boiled down to its simplest form and that’s where it is at its best. It also makes it easier to work around the preposterous premise and injects a lot of heart and warmth along the way.
Sometimes it’s not easy to be different, but let’s face it, it’s a lot easier than having scissors for hands.
“Edward Scissorhands” is now playing at the Fox Theatre through March 11. For tickets, call MetroTix at (314)-534-1111 or go to metrotix.com.