BWW Review: STOMP Smashes Through The Hippodrome
STOMP appears very briefly at Baltimore's Hippodrome, so you'll need to move quickly to catch it. The tour has just come from Morristown, NJ, and heads to North Carolina for three shows in two theatres starting Tuesday. It'll swing through Reading, PA on Friday March 24th, if you're able to make a little road trip to see it. There are also permanent STOMP installations in New York City's Orpheum Theatre (since 1994), and in London's West End (since 2002), now at the New Ambassadors Theatre. The European tour of STOMP is in Rome in May and Germany in June.
Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas had known each other ten years before their collaborative project STOMP debuted in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1991. Touring performances soon followed, and the troupe circled the globe gathering critical acclaim and enthusiastic fans of this fresh theatrical form.
I originally saw STOMP in the early '90s, and have great memories of a non-musical musical, a collage of percussive dances, an original plot-free performance style that defined the visual aesthetic of 'grunge.' I recall being amazed by the dancing, impressed by the athleticism, amused at the variety of sounds generated and delighted by the comedy. I wonder what I will think of this new young tour. I hope I can count on paper bags.
The Fayette garage is only ten dollars and connected to the Fayette Street lobby of the Hippodrome Theatre, so it's usually my first choice unless I know I need to make a speedy getaway, in which case I arrive early to snag street parking. A glass of wine is also ten dollars, so I choose an $8 beer instead. It continues to baffle me that beverages are now permitted in many theatres, including the Hippodrome.
STOMP's set is just as I remember it. I suppose things which are originally created perfect in both form and function do not need to evolve. It works beautifully. No set designer is credited, however, and I suspect Cresswell and McNicholas are responsible for the original concept. Many light cues and follow spots create a dynamic lighting design, which adds to the drama and the visuality of the show.
The word choreography suggests dancing, but these pieces are carefully choreographed even when the performers are seated. All of it is fun, unexpected and creative.
The performers: Are they dancers? Are they drummers? Are they clowns? Are they comedians? The answer is Yes to all of those. There is a great deal of character work in the context of the show, which adds situational humor and relationships to the series of rhythmic sequences, despite there being no plot and no dialogue in the performance. Each performer is highly skilled and thoroughly committed to the role, and the show moves at a pace that invites disaster but zooms right past it. I believe I spot a broom malfunction in the opening number, but it's handled so quickly and smoothly that I'm not sure. Since there are twelve performers touring with the show but only eight of them appear at any one time, (to avoid burnout, I imagine, and reduce the possibility of accident or injury), I can't say for certain which eight I see tonight, but every one of them is bursting with energy, talent and charm. Guido Mandozzi is a wonderful clown, and his knees have my admiration, my sympathy and my hopes for excellent chiropractic care. Krystal Renee manages to work so well around a... prop problem? wardrobe malfunction? that I don't notice, and it is my companion who remarks on it on the ride home. Jeremy Price is dryly humorous and gets the audience involved with only a little coaxing.
Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas direct STOMP with an eye to humor and interactivity. There is no fourth wall. It's a wonderful thing when syncopated movement creates its own music. Cresswell and McNicholas keep things fresh despite the show's longevity.
I spend a bit of time wondering where the performers might hide their body mics until I realize that there are mics along the edge of the stage and the cast knows precisely where they are. Though some of the sequences are quiet, the stage mics pick up every sound perfectly.
I recommend STOMP very highly. It's not simply a new genre of theatre, it's a Happening. It's great fun and only in town for one more performance.
STOMP is in Baltimore for just three performances, Saturday at 2 pm, Saturday at 8 pm, Sunday at 1 pm.
You can find tickets for STOMP at http://stomponline.com/tickets_tour.html
or at the Hippodrome's Box Office,410-752-7444
The Hippodrome is located at
12 North Eutaw Street, Baltimore, MD, 21201
410-837-7400 (box office)
Photo credit: Steve McNicholas