ASF: NANTA Cooking Show

By on 11 July, 2012 in Art, Fun, Kate and Stephen with 0 Comments

Offered in part to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Hyundai’s billion dollar groundbreaking in Montgomery, NANTA Cooking Show breaks new ground of its own at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.

The hit South Korean show (you can see a preview here) focuses on a set of cooks (and their boss, a comic foil) preparing a wedding banquet. It’s a loose plot, mostly a frame on which to hang tremendous percussive set pieces and adept physical comedy. Like the rest of the audience, we were enthralled and enervated. NANTA is genuinely explosive. It contains jaw-dropping athleticism and incredible feats of endurance.

With little to no dialogue and a good bit of slapstick, the show comes together with a dash of romance, a sprinkle of illusions, a heaping dose of showy rock guitar, a garnish of martial arts and a very effective use of ASF’s top notch lighting and stage. Lots of audience participation helps make it a collective experience. When we were there, they even had our mayor on stage tasting soup and mugging like a vaudeville pro.

If we had to compare NANTA to something, the publicity kit’s description of “Iron Chef meets Stomp” isn’t all that far off. There is also something, perhaps, of The Blue Man Group and maybe a slight suggestion of Jabbawockeez.

If you know someone in a high school band, or someone that appreciates the work of drumlines, this show is for them. Insane drumming is often marginalized in our society, with fans of lead guitarists (or American Idol-style vocalists) far outnumbering the ranks of those who get week in the knees for Neil Peart or Mickey Hart or Buddy Rich or John Bonham or Questlove. Still, percussion aficionados are out there, and this show will sear itself into their memory and will likely stand out to them as their favorite thing that ASF has ever done.

There’s something for food lovers too, but the knives are really instruments here and the impressive feats of vegetable chopping are ancillary to the rhythms and complex choreography. Sure, the plot is about a high-pressure catering assignment, and is set in a kitchen. And no doubt the food produced is quite edible. We recently commented on Montgomery’s outstanding Korean food scene. But NANTA’s smells and visible steam and geysers of diced food are really delicious side dishes for the overall entree of gymnastic drumming.

The choreographed feats accomplished by the NANTA performers are every bit as impressive as an athletic catch on a football field or a dunk at a basketball game. They work together to produce a seamless musicality that transcends any culturally specific experience. And there’s a plate throwing segment that had the audience gasping audibly.

Really, you have to check this out. There has probably never been anything quite like it at ASF and it would be foolish to miss these folks before they fly back to Seoul. It’s here for a very limited run only, July 11-15. Tickets can be obtained by calling 800.841.4273, visiting online at or going to the ASF box office.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with a cat, a dog, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.



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