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STAGE REVIEW

Stomp

Stomped Out

By Bence Olveczky
ASSOCIATE ARTS EDITOR

At the Wilbur Theatre until Dec. 26

Tickets $32.50 to $52.50

As the lights are dimmed and the pre-show chatter dies away, a rugged-looking lad enters the Wilbur Theatre stage with a broom. He sets out to clean the dusty floor, but his diligent sweeping soon takes on a beat of its own, attracting other highly rhythmic “cleaners” in the process. Before long, a percussive orchestra of brooms is formed, and the show begins.

But it doesn’t get very far. Rather, the show goes around in circles as the young ensemble repeats the same scene over and over, swapping their brooms for anything a well-equipped junkyard can muster. Whether their “instruments” are barrels, matchboxes, discarded sinks, rubber tubes, or yesterday’s Boston Globe, the Stomp crew makes familiar noises into throbbing rhythms and powerful -- and yes, at times even sophisticated -- music. The concept is ingenious, clever, and extremely well executed, with plenty of energetic dancing to fuel the extravaganza, but as the show goes on, the initial magic fizzles.

Watching the young musicians and dancers perform their urban tribal dance is an enthralling and eye-opening experience at first, but when the show finally ceases after two hours of high-octane pounding, it’s not a second too early. The lingering lesson is that too much of a good thing can cause a splitting headache.

Stomp was conceived on the streets of Brighton, England, and the show’s charm owes much to the spontaneity and interactive nature of street performance. Necessity is the mother of invention, and, being penniless buskers, the creators of Stomp, Luke Creswell and Steve McNicholas, had to use their imagination to attract the audience. Their innovative and brisk approach to theatre was a hit in their native Britain and became the talk of the town when Stomp first premiered at the Edinburgh festival.

More than eight years later, this original blend of performance art, dance, theatre, and percussive music is still drawing crowds. Not unlike Boston favorite Blue Man Group, Stomp is a triumph of artistic innovation and creativity over high-concept theater. No expensive stage effects or pseudo-intellectual frameworks are employed in this simple and forceful show.

To make the transitions between the different (yet very similar) stomping scenes smoother and to glue the show together, elements of comedy and acrobatics are employed. There is a recurring theme in Stomp: a short and shy “cleaner” tries to emulate the act of his big, studly colleague. Both have a lot of attitude and their confrontations are humorous at first, but after the umpteenth time, the joke isn’t funny anymore.

What must once have been a brilliant street act has expanded into an evening’s worth of entertainment, and without a story or a context, that turns out to be a bit of a stretch.