DCW On-Line: Hutchinson KS Review

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Blue Devils wow Kansas audience at the annual “Starlite Drum-O-Rama”

July 13, 2009 – Hutchinson, KS . . . in the shadow of the old rehearsal stomping ground of the Sky Ryders, Ross Viner and his crew staged another outstanding production at Gowan’s Stadium on the campus of Hutchinson Community College. This show has grown tremendously in the three years since it was re-established after an 18-year gap. And the Blue Devils made their first appearance here to overwhelming audience response as they led an eight-corps roster of DCI competitors.

Chairs and synthesizers and lots of familiar tunes made this one of the most enjoyable and competitive productions the Concord corps has produced in many years, at least to me. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire show and was particularly impressed with how much movement has been incorporated into their show using the chairs as extensions of drill patterns and a “prop” to be utilized at any points during the program. The guard costumes in bright yellow also contrasted nicely with the traditional corps-proper and I even liked the side “drape” on the horn and drum line that was lined with the same yellow dash of color.

The Cavaliers have dramatically improved the execution of their fascinating drill design. I saw the guard member “climbing” the “mountain” of horn players for the first time and that really emphasized the theme of “The Great Divide” storyline. The ropes were creatively used during the show and the corps sported a nice array of flag designs that further enhances the idea of rock climbing.

Bluecoats were particularly striking tonight, with strong brass and percussion performances and the color guard adding significantly to the overall presentation. I was struck by the effective uniform change – sort of in waves – during the final jazz piece that resulted in the full corps becoming clad in blue and white, tie-dyed shirts like the color guard started out with at the beginning. It was a wonderful transition that surprised many people in the audience.

The Denver Blue Knights have an upbeat and non-dark show this year! After a good number of seasons when the Colorado corps offered audiences challenging-to-enjoy programs, this one is a great change that appealed to everyone. The corps always has exceptionally talented members and very creative body movements. This year it is off in a different direction that many hope will be a new trend. One thing I noted tonight was that the hand-painted flags the corps has used for many years from a Denver artist have been replaced with more traditional designs, but still quite effective.

Colts, Dubuque, IA
Photo by Ron Walloch
Courtesy of Drum Corps World

The Colts and Troopers are the two corps currently leading the pack of finals contenders. The Dubuque corps has a very entertaining production called “Fathoms” that incorporates a nautical theme and a few very familiar charts like pieces from “Victory at Sea” and the 1960s instrumental hit “Ebbtide.” The guard uses bellbottoms and black and white striped shirts to enhance the theme and the original musical selections tie the other tunes together into a very competitive packge. I have always admired the way this corps is connected to their community like no other group in the activity and tonight their training corps was on hand, too.

Up Casper way, the management and staff of the Troopers have moved the corps into definite contention for a DCI Finals spot this year. The thematic use of selections from “West Side Story” – actually just “hints” of the familiar tunes – are woven together with other music that parallels the Shakespeare “Romeo and Juliet”-related Broadway and movie story, with a cavalry and Indian maidens theme that is fairly easy to follow. It’s fantastic to see such a strong product being fielded by the Troopers after many, many years of competing in the 13-20 grouping.

Mandarins had a lot of wind problems tonight with their black screens positioned across the front of the field. The opening of “Festive Overture” was quite strong and the balance of the show was also very well-presented. This is probably one of the strongest corps the Sacramento-based unit has ever produced since moving into World Class competition. The use of air mattresses is still a bit distracting, but no doubt they will have the kinks worked out by the time they reach Indianapolis.

The opening group tonight was the always-entertaining Colt Cadets. This is one of the most traveled Open Class corps in the activity and they are a credit to the Colt organization wherever they appear. They have moved away from the “cute” type show design a bit – although they still had some elements that fit their show theme – and perform a fairly challenging show given their young average age. It’s great to see this consistently entertaining corps in shows across the Midwest.

The encore was presented by the Bluecoats and I noticed that far fewer fans got up and left before the entire and scores were announced than the majority of shows I’ve attended this summer. The crowd seemed eager to get as much out of tonight’s show as possible.

Representatives of the primary sponsors were on hand to congratulate the drum majors as the placings were read by DCI announcer Dan Potter, including folks from Allstate Insurance, Fruhauf Uniforms, Sunflower Electric Supply and Eagle Communications.

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Posted by on Tuesday, August 4th, 2009. Filed under DCW On-Line.