The first time I saw STOMP was back in New York City’s Orpheum’s Theatre in 1995, when people all around Manhattan were buzzing about the unique production that combined percussion-minded “instruments” with an assortment of every-day items to create sound. It was astounding, loud (but in a good way!) and one of the most original things I had ever seen at the time.
Nearly two decades later, I was excited about the prospect of seeing the show at the National Theatre, wondering how the show had evolved in an era where genre copy-cat performances such as the Blue Man Group and De La Guardia have entered the fold.
The show starts simply enough—as it always has—with one man and a broom, sweeping away and finding a hypnotic rhythm in his steps. He’s soon joined by another broom-wielding member of the troupe, than another, until finally eight performers are banging and sweeping away in an engaging beat. It’s as breathtaking as it ever was.
Throughout the show, the performers come and go in little audible-focused vignettes, deriving incredible sound from things such as scratch boxes, paper bags, tubes, newspapers and yes, even the kitchen sink! Other items used for Stomp’s music include boxes of tissues, hammer handles, wooden poles, paint cans, drumsticks and rolls of gaff tape. The incredible way in which the sounds come alive just blew me away.
During a fun scene in which a man sits with a newspaper, trying to find some quiet, the other performers come along and develop a melodic tune out of newspapers, body parts and the simple acts of coughing and clearing throats.
One of the most exciting parts of the show is when the performers attach themselves to harnesses and hang from the air, playing a sink and garbage-can inspired make-shift drum kit, swaying as they keep a melodic beat.
Don’t be fooled that the show is just a bunch of people banging, the structured choreography of the performers could rival any Bob Fosse number, the rhythms are as powerful as any big band could muster and the humor as satisfying as any great silent film.
One area where STOMP succeeds better than most is in its audience interplay. Performers connect with the audience with claps and facial expressions and the laughs keep on coming.
From the perspective of the little ones, I can tell you that my 8-year-old daughter Cassidy joined me at the show, and she laughed more than she ever has at any movie. She was literally on the edge of her seat the whole time and her face was filled with wonder and amazement. On the car ride home, she was coming up with her own ways to “stomp” and create sounds, and I’m sure that creativity will continue thanks to such a memorable show.
Her favorite part of the show involved a series of shopping carts zooming around the stage and the one performer who kept getting his “instruments” taken away.
Although there were some minor glitches, such as a broom breaking during one act and a cigarette lighter failing to flicker in an otherwise astonishing array of light and sound, STOMP delivered more than 90 minutes of fun and excitement.
Highly recommended for people of all ages.