REVIEW BY CARY GINELL
Stomp, which played a limited engagement for two nights last week at the Fred Kavli Theater, is probably the most unusual show to ever hit Broadway. For the uninitiated, Stomp has no story, no songs, no music, and no dialog. What it does have is pantomime and percussion, and plenty of both. The show explores rhythms in as dynamic a setting as you will ever see in the theater, played not on conventional percussion instruments, but everyday objects as well as the performers’ own bodies, setting the viewer’s imagination whirling as to the musical possibilities surrounding all of us. The extraordinary eight-member cast gets a physical workout each night, acting as a team, in a spectacle of rhythms that has been a worldwide hit for more than 20 years, since its debut in Brighton, England in 1991. Three years later, it made its debut in New York at the Orpheum Theater where it just celebrated its 20th anniversary as it approaches its 10,000th performance.
In case you were wondering what kinds of objects the cast uses to play its scintillating percussive playlist, they employ (deep breath) brooms, matchboxes, handclaps, feet, finger snaps, knee slaps, dust pans, waste cans, plastic tubing, paint cans, metal sinks, tin cans, mops, wooden poles, sticks, flexible corrugated tubes, hubcaps, steel drums, pipes, newspapers, shopping carts, water jugs, Zippo lighters, buckets, basketballs, oil drums, tractor-tire-sized inner tubes, paper cups, soda cans, plastic bags, trash can lids, and metal trash cans. The show starts small, with a solitary performing sweeping up dust on stage. Before long, the other performers saunter on, each sweeping up as well, until the ensemble creates a cacophony of syncopated rhythms. Each “song” is a blackout with a beginning, a crescendo to a fever pitch, and either a cold ending or a slow fadeout. There is interaction with the audience as the members attempt to get the house to clap along with them or just merely respond to their shenanigans.
In one astonishing sequence, the members hang from bungee cords as they pound away at walls of paraphernalia, in an ear-pounding sequence that is among the most exciting spectacles you will ever see – or hear – in the theater.
A key to the success of the show is the complete lack of dialog. The members, however, are still able to communicate with each other by the raise of an eyebrow, a motion of a hand, or a shrug of a shoulder. Through this ingenious pantomime, they are able to express faux rivalry, one-upsmanship, false bravado, and embarrassment, all to the delight of the audience. It’s a show that can play – and has played – all over the world. With no language barrier, Stomp is a sensation wherever it goes.
If you missed it when it roared through town, you can rest assured that Stomp will be back. When it does, bring the kids; they will have has much fun as you will. Stomp is one helluva good time.