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SHEAR GENIUS `SCISSORHANDS' A CUTTING-EDGE APPROACH TO DANCE.

Byline: Evan Henerson Theater Writer

Director/choreographer Matthew Bourne has never been one to shrink from a challenge, even at the possible expense of his performers' vision.

Running with scissors is nothing. Instead, try dancing with a partner carrying a mass of wicked-looking shears where palms, wrists and fingers are supposed to be.

Sam Archer and Richard Winsor -- who alternate in the clipper-fingered leading role of Bourne's ``Edward Scissorhands'' -- have adapted. As have their respective ingenues.

``During the rehearsals, the girls who played Kim (the young heroine) wore sewing goggles for fear of getting their eyes poked out, but then they found they couldn't see what they were doing,'' recalls Bourne, whose version of ``Edward Scissorhands,'' which was adapted from Tim Burton's modern fairy tale, opens a three-week holiday run tonight at the Ahmanson Theatre.

`Helpless and childlike'

``The whole Edward situation, he's so helpless,'' Bourne continues, referring both to the character and to the actor who straps on the suits and the shears. ``Water gets put into his mouth. He can't go to the toilet. He gets very hot. The character is very much treated the same way on stage and off. He's sort of a bit helpless and childlike.''

About those hands: Blade-wise, the scissors aren't as lethal as they look. They're a lightweight plastic formula and composed of a bunch of brass springs to operate the various functions. Archer and Winsor actually go through several pairs over the course of an evening, and there's one dreamlike sequence when the gloves come off, and the actors perform scissors- free.

``We had to keep going back to the drawing board to make the scissors more flexible,'' says Bourne. ``I loved working with them. When you work with something that's so different, it makes you do different work.'' <Bourne's Edward figures to be similar to Johnny Depp, who created the role in Burton's 1990 film. Playing a gentle but freakish-looking lad who -- after being discovered living alone in a house -- falls in love with the daughter of the suburban family who has taken him in, Depp's Edward slashed, snipped and sheared plenty, but said very little.

A young man of very few words

The Edward of the stage ``Scissorhands'' will say even less. In Bourne's dance musical adaptations (including ``Swan Lake,'' ``Cinderella'' and, most recently, ``The Play Without Words'') nobody speaks. Stylistic dance and movement there is aplenty, but no dialogue.

How Bourne made the cut

And it's that uniqueness of Bourne's work, in large part, that sold ``Edward Scissorhands'' screenwriter Caroline Thompson on the idea of ``Scissorhands'' getting a Bourne identity. Thompson met Bourne after seeing a regional production of his now seminal ``Swan Lake'' (you know, the one with the bare-chested male swans), and she concluded that if anyone were to be trusted with adapting her first produced script, Bourne was the man.

``I don't think I had ever seen a more exciting piece of theater,'' recalls Thompson, who is credited as the stage ``Scissorhands'' co-adaptor. ``That sensibility made me swoon. I don't know how else to put it. Knowing his work, I thought it was a brilliant idea from the very beginning.''

Bourne recalls being taken with the film, and particularly the character of Edward, who he viewed as an ultimate outsider. In the mid-1990s, when Bourne was asked to jot down potential ideas for a new stage musical, he put down ``Edward Scissorhands'' at the top of the list.

Elfman's music stays

``It was such an unusual, unique film,'' says Bourne. ``It needed to be put on stage, this sweet story, with Danny Elfman's music.''

Burton and Elfman, who were less familiar with Bourne, eventually climbed on board as well, although their first-blush offers to design the stage ``Scissorhands' '' scenery (Burton) and additional musical arrangements (Elfman) never materialized.

A full seven years after Bourne hatched the idea, his production opened in London. Tours of England and Japan followed. The Ahmanson is ``Scissorhands' '' second stop on the current U.S. Tour.

Burton and Elfman both have seen the production and given it their blessing. Depp reportedly has never caught it, but has mentioned in interviews that he's aware of its existence and might be interested in checking it out.

``He likes alternative approaches to things, so I think he'd really enjoy it,'' says Bourne. ``Up to now, there's only been one version, one performance; so it's difficult to separate the actor from the character. We're walking the tightrope of pleasing people who loved the film and trying to do our own thing. I think we owe a lot to Johnny Depp. He made such a great impression in that part, so, yes, he's in there somewhere.''

Evan Henerson, (818) 713-3651

evan.henerson@dailynews.com

EDWARD SCISSORHANDS

Where: Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday; through Dec. 31.

Tickets: $20 to $90. (213) 628-2772 or visit www.centertheatregroup.org.

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Edward's scissors are made of a lightweight plastic formula, with brass springs to operate the various functions. ``We had to keep going back to the drawing board to make the scissors more flexible,'' says director and choreographer Matthew Bourne.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 13, 2006
Words:875
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