As Expected, 'STOMP' Doesn't Disappoint

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STOMP

Created and Directed by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, Lighting Design by Steve McNicholas and Neil Tiplady, US Rehearsals directed by Fiona Wilkes

Cast (in alphabetical order)
Shola Cole
Leilani Dibble
Andres Fernandez
Jim Holdridge
Joell Jackson
Louis Labovitch
Michael R. Landis
Justin Myles
Chris Rubio
Stephen Serwacki
Michelle Smith
Nicholas Young

Performances: Now through November 17 at the Colonial Theatre
Box Office: Through Ticketmaster at (617)-931-2787, online at www.broadwayacrossamerica.com, or in person at The Colonial Theatre Box Office (106 Boylston Street) and The Opera House Box Office (539 Washington Street)

I first saw STOMP over four years ago at another, smaller, Boston theatre. I remember being absolutely amazed at how the performers took what seemed like the ordinary and morphed it into an extraordinary fusion of rhythm, dance, and an innovative style of music. The cast was young, the concept compelling, and the overall experience one I'll never forget.

Thinking back on that performance, it almost seems wrong now that the show is back in town not at that smaller venue, but in the approximately 1,700 seat Colonial Theatre. Not only that, but it's being brought to us by the one and only beacon of commercialized theatre, Broadway Across America. Is it possible that something so organic has evolved into something so corporate?

Alas, it's true. The days when Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas produced, financed, and directed the first staging of the piece and won the 1991 Best of the Fringe award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival are dead and gone. But heck, STOMP went corporate long before that—the most well known of the dances, the dustbin dance at the end of the performance that you inevitably see clips from in any commercial for the show, actually began as the acclaimed "Bins" commercial for Heineken. Nowadays, there are several STOMP films—including an IMAX version—and television specials, TV appearances on everything from The Late Show with David Letterman to Mr. Rodger's Neighborhood to Sesame Street, and commercials for Coca-Cola and Target. Honestly, I'm surprised that I haven't seen STOMP action figures and lunch boxes popping up at the local Toys 'R' Us. It seems that since opening at Off-Broadways Orpheum Theatre in 1994—and winning a plethora of national and international awards—STOMP fever has swept the nation.

Despite the revived undertones of mass marketing that loom in the background of this production, I'm very pleased to say that STOMP has lost none of its appeal. I'll be honest—I was worried that the integrity of the show would somehow be lost in the mass appeal of the production, but my fears are assuaged after seeing this most recent tour. Fifteen years after Cresswell and McNicholas took the Fringe by storm, their unique blend of choreography and percussion have lost none of the awe and magic that captured our hearts in the first place.

The mood is set upon entry, with world rhythms piping through the speakers and pouring over the crowd. Celtic, Spanish, Arabic, Cuban—it doesn't matter. What does matter are the throbbing beats that echo off the vaulted ceilings and set the stage for and evening of driving performance.

I'm still amazed that these performers can get on stage every night and do what they do; to say it must be a physical trial would be an understatement. These are performers who dance and create intricate rhythms and music with little more than their bodies and odd props here and there—brooms, kitchen sinks, buckets, dustbins, plungers, lighters, basketballs, crates, paper bags, and cups, to name but a very few—and all I can say is man, these people know how to make it happen. The pleasure isn't just in watching the dance and listening to harmonies where you thought none could thrive, but it's also in watching the individual performers in their interpretations of and attitudes in the pieces.

Everything focuses around them—the lighting design, for example, serves to perfectly compliment and capture not only the performances but the performers—and even as they move from one dance to the next, it's hard to pull yourself away from what you just saw and move onto the next bit.

Don't take this as an endorsement of corporate theatre, though, which it most definitely is not. It just so happens that STOMP is a fantastic piece of performance art—much better than some of that drivel masquerading as theatre on Broadway these days—and hey, if it's got great backing and popular appeal, all the more power to them. The audience I saw at the Colonial for this performance was by far the most diverse I have seen in years of haunting this city's theatres, and frankly, it was refreshing to see people of all ages and walks of life coming together for a brief period of time to celebrate in their love of performance. Sure the show loses a bit of that "surprise" effect if it's not your first time seeing the production, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable.

One caution—don't see this show if you feel a headache coming on, or it might turn into 90 minutes of torture rather than the more common hour and a half of bliss. That aside, though, this show is one most definitely worth seeing. Bring your kids, bring your parents, bring your siblings, bring your friends, bring just about everyone! Surprisingly enough, the mass appeal of the show serves as one of it's strength, and since there's no longer an ongoing production of the show in town, it will certainly behoove you to check it out before it's gone.

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Olena Ripnick Olena Ripnick is a Boston University journalism student and freelance writer whose introduction to the performing arts took place when she was cast as Gretel in ?The Sound of Music? at the tender age of six. She has an extensive background in both theatre and music production, and in 2001 founded Rip It Up Productions and has gone on to produce everything from musicals to benefit concerts. She continues to remain involved in the various aspects of the theatre, from performing to directing, as well as the many aspects of the music industry, including event production, artist management, and performance. When she?s not on stage or behind the scenes, Olena can be found on the ski slopes, on air with her weekly musical theatre radio show La Vie Boh?me (www.wtburadio.com), or traveling the world and exploring the infinite abyss. She thanks her family for supporting all her endeavors, no matter how crazy they may seem.


 
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