The 1994 Drum Corps International World Championship was held in Foxboro Stadium, now torn down and replaced with the larger Gillette Stadium, home of the 2005 DCI World Championships. When Blue Devils' winning score was announced, the corps became the first undefeated unit in DCI history since first doing so in 1982, and capped a 20-year streak of consecutive top-five placements. Among other corps highlights in 1994 was the first Finals appearance by Magic of Orlando, the haunting beauty of Phantom Regiment's "Clare de Lune," the eyebrow-raising color guard visuals in the Cavaliers' "Rituals" program, and the sudden disappearance of the Cossack dancers amidst a swirl of flags in Santa Clara Vanguard's "The Red Poppy." Audience cameras flashed in unison when Crossmen ended their three-year "Songs of Planet Earth" cycle by laying on the field at the end of their performance and spelling out "Children are the Future." The Cadets of Bergen County's 2nd-place "West Side Story" production tapped into the famed 1957 Broadway musical that redefined and altered the entire concept of American musical theater. Although the production lost the Tony for Best Musical to "The Music Man," it has become one of the true classics for its take on the Shakespearean story of "Romeo and Juliet" along with its music, penned by famed composer, conductor and all-around Renaissance man Leonard Bernstein. It seems that just about everyone associated with the premiere of the musical and the subsequent 1961 hit movie (winner of 10 Academy Awards) was or soon became huge successes in the worlds of theater and film. Arthur Laurents of "Gypsy" and "Le Cage Aux Folles" fame wrote the book for the production and Stephen Sondheim, in his Broadway debut, penned the lyrics. He would go on to become perhaps the most famous of all Broadway lyricists. The choreography of both the Broadway production and movie was by Jerome Robbins, whose work producing and directing made him one of the most honored people in all the arts. Ironically, the musical was set in the New York City neighborhood that was cleared just a few years later for the development of Lincoln Center, which has witnessed many celebrated "West Side Story" productions over the years. Exploring the ethnic tensions between the opposing street gangs of the Sharks and the Jets, the musical almost didn't get off the ground. Investors fled from it, declaring the concept to be too dark and depressing to succeed as a Broadway hit. Columbia Records initially refused to record the cast album for many of the same reasons, but when they did, it became gold for them (The Columbia recording of the film soundtrack was eventually certified three times platinum.). Sondheim was able to convince his friend Harold Prince to take a peek at the musical, and the Broadway producer, the eventual winner of more Tony Awards than anyone else, saved the day. And the rest, as they say, is history. "West Side Story" has long been a natural for the Cadets and the corps has often returned to the music, most recently during its 75th anniversary when it took on its original name of Holy Name Cadets in 2009. The 1994 show, 10 years removed from the corps' Championship-winning "West Side Story" production that altered the face of drill writing in 1984, started with "Dance in the Gym." The enthusiastic, short fanfare introduced the males in the color guard (the rifle bearers) as playful members of the two gangs. "Mambo" soon followed, introducing the similarly attired female guard members with flags. The drums and most of the brass players headed backfield in the old tempo, letting "Mambo" taper off as the front ensemble percussion and a smaller group of horns introduced the lovely strains of a short version of "Maria." "Cool" came next, introducing some battling between the snares, tenors and bass drums. The seven snare drummers each went to a separate drum set on the front sideline for a "question/answer" section between themselves and the horns as the guard members spun "cool" blue flags. "Prologue/Rumble" featured the only visible members of the color guard with sabers, as the horns unleashed the most threatening strains of the show. The ballad of "I Have a Love" quickly morphed into "A Boy Like That." Then, as various curvilinear forms came together, the tempo instantly slowed down and a pure rendition of "I Have a Love" grew from a quiet, tender statement to a grand proclamation, evolving into the gentleness of "There's a Place for Us." This further evolved into "Tonight," where one of the most memorable visuals of the year was presented. Picking up tempo, the entire corps formed the outline of a jet, taking a literal approach to the name of one of the gangs. Visual designer Marc Sylvester then morphed the drill form into a shark, with the flags as the vertical fin. When the brass section filled into a company front, the corps members turned around, faced backfield, and while marching backward toward the front stands, launched into a short snippet of "Officer Krupke." A quick statement of "Finale" and several fast-evolving drill evolutions brought the corps to the front, where everyone froze in statuesque positions upon the cutoff of the last note, leaving the fans with an image of both gangs united in accomplishment and unity. For this week only, you can save on the Legacy Collection DVD that contains this complete Cadets of Bergen County performance, along with all finalists from the 1994 DCI World Championships. Buy the 1994 Legacy Collection DVD. (Available this week only for 20% off. Regular price: $35.95.)
1994 Cadets of Bergen County
1994 OverviewDiscount DVD offer ends Monday, May 6 at 8:30 a.m. ET.
Michael Boo was a member of the Cavaliers from 1975-1977. He has written about the drum corps activity for more than a quarter century and serves as a staff writer for various Drum Corps International projects. Boo has written for numerous other publications and has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating. As an accomplished composer, Boo holds a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's degree in music theory and composition. He resides in Chesterton, Ind.