Sometimes, a story originally told nearly thirty years ago manages to feel more timely than ever. Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands was released in 1990 and introduced an artificially-created, unfinished human who has scissor blades for hands. Starring Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder, it became a cult classic. Now, in 2018, The Fuse Project and Rockwell Table & Stage have created Scissorhands: A Musical Inspired by the Film, and this story about an outsider struggling to fit in in a world that was not designed for people like them is touching and well-timed.
The mission of The Fuse Project, which previously presented The Last Breakfast Club also at Rockwell, is to combine pop culture icons and film and television classics into a funny and thought-provoking musical theater production. Written and produced by Kate Pazakis and Bradley Bredeweg, the show follows the original plot of the movie and adds popular songs by the likes of Aerosmith, Madonna, and Lady Gaga. The unique space at Rockwell, an intimate, immersive venue where guests enjoy food and drinks during the performance and a scene might even end up taking place right at your table, is the perfect atmosphere for this type of performance. Directed by Bredeweg, the stage for Scissorhands is configured differently than for most Rockwell performances, and the typically minimal stagecraft is kicked up a notch—there’s even a mini turntable.
The show opens with Scissorhands (Jordan Kai Burnett) and their inventor/mother figure (Dionne Gipson), who dies before she can complete her creation and add actual hands. Scissorhands spends years alone in a decrepit mansion until one day when Peg (Emma Hunton), an Avon lady, knocks on the door. She is immediately able to see past Scissorhands’ differences, sensing he is actually harmless, and invites him into her home with open arms. Her husband (Ryan O’Connor) and daughter, Kim (Natalie Masini) are at first less than charmed, although Kim quickly begins to fall for the mysterious Scissorhands, much to the dismay of Jim (Keir Kirkegaard), her jock boyfriend. The busybody neighbors (O’Connor along with Carly Casey and Morgan Smith) are fascinated and even aroused by how exotic and mysterious Peg’s new houseguest is. For a while, things go well, with Scissorhands using their “talents” to sculpt the neighbors’ foliage into elaborate art and planning to open a hair salon, but soon, a series of misunderstandings reminds everyone that the world isn’t necessarily safe or welcoming to someone like Scissorhands.
Part of the movie takes place at Christmas, and that element is emphasized for this holiday production, with Christmas songs sprinkled throughout. Of course, many of the more absurd moments are played for laughs. When the neighbors drop by Peg’s house, desperate to get a look at Scissorhands, they sing a mash-up of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and “Let’s Have a Kiki” by the Scissor Sisters. When Peg takes Scissorhands to the bank in an attempt to get a loan for the hair salon they sing ABBA’s “Money Money Money,” and when Kim finally loses her patience with Jim, she does so to the tune of “Trouble” by Taylor Swift. There are also more earnest musical moments—Kim and Scissorhands bond while singing “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and later express their increasingly complicated feelings via “Shallow” from the recent A Star is Born.
The most surprising part of Scissorhands is how genuinely moving it is at times. What differentiates The Fuse Project from the Unauthorized Musical Parody Of (UMPO) Series is that while there are certainly comedic elements, this is not a spoof, it is more of a reimagining. Scissorhands is played by a woman, and many references are made to their ambiguous gender identity, something that was never explored in the film. After initially assigning the name Edward, Peg later realizes they/them pronouns are more appropriate for her new adopted child. It’s a seemingly small detail, but it goes a long way in adding a new modern layer to the story, and to the underlying theme of what is “required” to be accepted in society.
The cast is fantastic, led by Kai Burnett, who almost could have used another song or two to really shine. Much like in the movie, so much of the story is about people reacting to Scissorhands rather than Scissorhands actually taking action, but she does get to take center stage on American Authors’ “Best Day of My Life.” Hunton, always a highlight whenever she appears at Rockwell, is hilarious and an incredible singer, bringing the house down on Nirvana’s “All Apologies.” But the real revelation here is Masini, who is new to these shows and exudes star quality on top of her impressive singing voice. The end of the show is beautifully staged and wonderfully heartfelt. As usual at Rockwell, this show is well worth your time, and the message of acceptance is perfect for the holiday season.
Scissorhands runs at Rockwell Table & Stage Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 12pm through January 5th. The running time is two hours, including one intermission. By popular demand, 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 – Sunday, in February. Please visit www.Rockwell-LA.com for times and tickets, which start at $20. Please note that Rockwell policy also requires a 2 item minimum purchase of food and/or drinks per person, and these items can be enjoyed during the performance.