BWW Review: STOMP Smashes Its Way to Orlando
STOMP is one of those shows I've heard about, seen the advertisements, seen the commercials, but have never experienced in person. If you're like me then it's time to see this show, if you haven't. STOMP was a concept devised in the UK by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas in 1991. It came to the United States in the early 1990s and has been going on ever since. Not many shows can have that distinction of going on past the twenty year mark. It's also one of those shows whose concepts wormed its way into popular culture. Now that I've seen it, I can understand its longevity and appeal.
Going in I didn't know what to expect, but from the very first swoosh of a broom I knew this was going to be unlike anything I've seen. I threw my expectations away and let myself be present to experience the high energy 1 hour 45 minute show.
As mentioned, the show opens with a single man and a broom. He is slowly joined by other broom performers, then the next thing you know you're watching a broom version of RIVERDANCE. The speed of taps and the clarity of sound is unbelievable. This opening number was just one performance that left my jaw hanging. The show progresses with the performers using various everyday objects as percussion instruments. Everything from match boxes to grocery carts and, of course, buckets, pots and pans.
There are a total of eight performers on-stage, each with a unique personality, but the same incredible percussion skills. It is incredible to watch the performers move throughout the stage. They seem so aware of the space and their fellow performers that it almost looks easy. Crowd favorite performers included John Angeles, who serves as the central performer that ties the show together. Angeles has a few solos and enviable toned arms. Then there is Charley Ruane who serves as the goofy comedic relief. Ruane keeps the show accessible and still has amazing coordination and rhythm.
My favorite performance occurred in absolute darkness. The Walt Disney Theater is spooky when it's completely dark and you're sitting with 2,700 of your closest friends. Your sense of sight struggles to compensate for the darkness. You hear a scratch and you see a light flicker on stage. Then more flickers appear and you're watching lighters flicker on and off seemingly dancing in patterns and times. It's absolutely mesmerizing.
We have a few resident shows in town that also use performance art with no spoken words. While I can draw similarities from those, STOMP is a beast all its own. The show flowed very naturally and it almost felt like I was watching a story unfold. There are no characters, no big special effects, just extremely talented people performing high impact choreography.
The two layered set gives off a grungy junkyard feel. Objects hang haphazardly, hinting that they will serve some function. Everything in on the set gets used and percussed on in some way. The costumes are more functional than fantastic and really serve well to showcase the toned bodies of the performers. It was interesting to see how musical everyday objects can be. I thought to myself, why didn't I think of that? I suddenly feel the need to take everything out of my kitchen cabinets and form a band.
I didn't expect to laugh as much as I did. STOMP proves that a show doesn't need words to tell a story. How can a show with no spoken words be funny? Long tubes, short tubes, slapstick comedy, and pee innuendos. We live in a world where everything has to be big and flashy in order to gain our attention. STOMP brings us back to the roots of what entertainment is in its rawest form - People banging on thing to form a rhythm and dancing.
STOMP isn't just a sit and watch show. Not only does STOMP help form an appreciation for throw away items, but you become part of the show. There is group participation in the form of clapping and snapping. It's a bit much at times, probably used to help give performers a break, since there is no intermission. Some performances felt drawn out and repetitive, but then the clapping activity came back and reenergized the crowd. The clapping also comes into play at the show's finale. The audience's clapping and the STOMP performers make the finale go from a standard finale, to an on your feet clapping, cheering, and begging-for-more finale.
If you've never seen this show, it's definitely time. STOMP is good for the kids, but beware they may become inspired to turn everything into an instrument. Everything. STOMP appears at the Dr. Phillips Center now until Sunday, March 24th at various times. For tickets and more information visit www.drphillipscenter.org.
Photo credit: STOMP National Tour