Shockwave unveiled at West Point

by Michael Boo, DCW staff

The newest treat from the same people who brought us “BLAST!” was unveiled September 28 at the Eisenhower Hall Theatre at West Point, NY.

For those fans of the pageantry arts who have seen the original “BLAST!” production (which is still traveling around the country), “Shockwave” might come as a surprise, but it will certainly come as a delight.

The surprise to some might be due to the fact that “Shockwave,” unlike its predecessor, incorporates movement (and a remarkable amount of it) in place of marching and adds the sonic enhancement of a full saxophone section among the 26 winds. Furthermore, the musical repertoire leans substantially to the contemporary, with a great deal more jazz and rock elements throughout.

The smaller (six-member) percussion section is mostly placed on an elevated platform, and there is a heavy use of electronics and amplified instruments.

Attitude-wise, “Shockwave” has more of an edge than “BLAST!,” is more daring in many ways, and relishes its “hipper” demeanor. It will seem to some to be like a child who is learning to explore the world on its own.

As a child of the “BLAST!” creative team, it has been explained by producer/artistic director James Mason in the following terms: “You can tell ‘BLAST!’ and ‘Shockwave’ are from the same parents, but the children are different. Each has its own identity and each has something different to offer the world.”

OK, but is it fun? Is it worth driving perhaps hours to witness? Is it a worthy successor to the show that garnered both a Tony and an Emmy?

Oh my God, yes. Yes, yes, a million times, yes.

“Shockwave” is the freshest, most captivating two hours of pure entertainment this side of watching the Aurora Borealis explode in pure color over an erupting volcano during a meteor shower. It stimulates the senses and constantly amazes with its unexpected twists and turns, always with a phenomenal performance quality that defies musical expectations.

That the performance level is tighter than that of “BLAST!” — which itself raised the bar on music with movement — might be open to debate. But anyone witnessing “Shockwave” live will be astounded that the ensemble can play such difficult and exposed music while gyrating and sending their various limbs off in different directions in unison. The choreography is a joy to watch, but often one is so amazed at the coordination of playing while performing such difficult choreography and fancy footwork that it’s easy to forget this is all being done live and not to taped music.

Drum corps fans will recognize many names among the movers and shakers of this production…