“Edward Scissorhands” was strange enough the first time around.
Now, with Matthew Bourne’s wordless dance production of the 1990 tear-jerking fairy tale, things have gotten even weirder.
As one of Tim Burton’s best-loved films, “Scissorhands” is sure to attract attention — but so do car crashes.
Having mounted a rigorous marketing regimen, the Brooklyn Academy of Music hopes that Bourne’s re-imagining of Tim Burton’s film, on stage at the Howard Gilman Opera House from March 14–31, will garner the same kind of acclaim that met earlier runs in London and Los Angeles.
Bourne is best known for his singular version of “Swan Lake,” which made it to Broadway a few seasons back, and he’s currently represented on the Great White Way with his choreography for “Mary Poppins.”
He thinks “Edward Scissorhands” is the perfect movie to turn into a staged dance.
“I loved the message in the movie,” Bourne told GO Brooklyn. “[It was] about learning to see inside people and not judge them by their outward appearance.”
In the movie version, Vincent Price played an eccentric inventor who created Edward (Johnny Depp) to replace his dead son. The old man died before finishing his work, so Edward was left alone with gigantic cutting shears for hands. He was welcomed into a small, picket-fence community thanks to his topiary and haircutting skills, and soon fell in love with the daughter (Winona Ryder) of the family that took him in. But — you knew it was coming — the fact that Edward was “different” soon became a matter of life and death.
Adapting this fantastical tale from the movies to the dance stage is unusual to say the least; the movie’s screenwriter Caroline Thompson — who worked on the adaptation with Bourne — hadn’t worked outside of the film world, yet instinctively knew what was needed.
“It was my first theatrical work, so it was fun to attack the problems that the stage presents,” said Thompson, who also wrote the scripts for Burton’s animatronic fantasies, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Corpse Bride.”
“This required a fresh approach, and my job was to encourage Matthew to not be overly respectful to the material. We completely reimagined the tale through its storyline. My role was to ask, ‘How does that serve this emotional story?’ ”
Thompson doesn’t think it so far-fetched that a strange fairy-tale movie has been transformed into a ballet with a mute title character — after all, Edward only said 196 words in the movie anyway.
“At his core, he’s in many ways a silent character, so for me, watching Matt adapting it is like watching a Charlie Chaplin movie,” she said. “In any case, it’s not so farfetched a marriage: I based Edward on a dog I once had who wanted to desperately participate in my life, and only lacked the mechanism of speech.”
In other cities where the show has run, the reception hasn’t always been as grand as the spectacle. “[It] feels like Bourne-by-numbers,” wrote Zoe Anderson in London’s Independent. “Familiar characters or devices that have suffered a fatal loss of energy.”
For his part, Bourne claimed that his show isn’t just the film on stage, and “it’s full of surprises even for those that know the movie well. So far, fans of the movie have loved the show — even Johnny Depp himself!”
Depp, who also starred in Burton’s “Sleepy Hollow” and “Corpse Bride,” might be a good judge of character. But what does Burton think?
“Tim was at the premiere of the ballet in London, and he had this mystified look on his face,” said Thompson, “but he was completely blown away by it and can’t wait to see it again. Neither can I.”
“Edward Scissorhands” at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House (30 Lafayette Ave. at Ashland Place in Fort Greene), March 14-31. Tickets are $30-$80. A BAMdialogue with Matthew Bourne will be held March 15 at 6 pm at the BAM Rose Cinemas; tickets are $8. For information, call (718) 636-4100 or visit www.bam.org.