NANDA Thrills with 'The Jacket'

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NANDA performs 'The Jacket.' Photo by Joshua Sage.
NANDA performs 'The Jacket.' Photo by Joshua Sage.

 

If you’re looking for something fun for the whole family, look no further than NANDA’s The Jacket, a show so unusual that it defies description. NANDA is a four-man troupe originally hailing from Port Townsend, Washington. Their brand of entertainment is so unique to them that they had to coin their own word to describe it, “acrobaticalism.”  My family and I caught their show this past weekend, and I can only explain it by comparing it to a clown show but better because there are no clowns, or a vaudeville act performed by would-be ninjas, or perhaps a Looney Toons cartoon that’s come to life. With the exception of my grouchy three year old who was missing her nap, every child in the audience more than enthusiastically loved the show with at least one boy asking his father if he could go see it again.

The Jacket is about a mythical jacket that gives the wearer superhero‑like powers. The four men fight over who gets the jacket while performing various stunts, backflips, juggling acts, etc. The show is almost entirely set to music, with every move, including kicks and punches, choreographed to sound cues which they never missed. Original video montages were interspersed between the live acts, and the animated clips were the highlight for me. I also loved the juggling act. The NANDA performers kept twelve clubs flying through the air while they moved around the stage and never dropped a single club. My five year old was so inspired that she unsuccessfully attempted to juggle two jackets while we were in the lobby after the show.

NANDA can appeal to a wide range of audiences as long as long as you have the proper expectations of the show. Elementary and middle school students will love seeing NANDA. Like a Looney Toons cartoon, there is also a lot of clever humor to appeal to adults. The show is not, however, a kung fu exhibition, and nor does it claim to be. NANDA calls its brand of stage fighting “kung-faux.”  Nor is The Jacket as polished a circus-like performance as Cirque du Soleil. My primary criticism of the show is that sometimes the goofiness of the troupe obscured the real talent that the performers have. I would think this is silly slapstick comedy and then one of them would surprise me and execute a spinning aerial kick.

The Jacket is NANDA’s first feature‑length production. They kicked off their Northwest Legend Tour here in Seattle and will be travelling throughout Washington state, British Columbia, Oregon and California in a vehicle powered by diesel and used grease/vegetable oil before returning in December to perform at the Kirkland Performance Center in Kirkland, Washington.

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