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They’ve Got Rhythm

‘Stomp’ -- The Show That Rings Life to a Junkyard

By Sonja A. Sharpe

Staff WRITer

Directed By Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas

Starring Tomas Fujiwara, Richard Giddens, Fritzlyn Hector, Kwame Densu Opare, Nick Pack, Jr., Ana Sofia Pomales, and Ray Rodriguez

The Wilbur Theatre, 246 Tremont Street

Through December 16, 2001

Student Tickets $25

Stomp has made it back to Boston yet again, and for those of you who missed it the first three times it was here, it is definitely worth a look. The show is unique in that there is simply nothing else like it, which helps to explain why Stomp continues to perform to capacity audiences a full decade after its creation by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas.

From its humble beginnings as a street performance in the UK in 1991, Stomp has gone on to garner numerous prestigious awards, including an Olivier Award, an Obie Award, a Drama Desk Award, and an Emmy Award for their special, “Stomp Out Loud.” They even produced a short live action film entitled Brooms, which was nominated for an Academy Award.

All of these awards were given for a reason -- Stomp is a unique and inventive show. With a small on-stage cast of three women and five men (the performers alternate nights), Stomp is a high-energy percussion/comedy extravaganza in which the performers never speak, but instead coax a highly integrated rhythm out of everything and anything except, of course, traditional percussion instruments. The set is literally a junkyard, where old hubcaps, cylinders, pots, buckets, and street signs abound, and all are used to great effect. In addition to these items, the performers also create music out of trashcans, oil drums, plastic barrels, plungers, matchboxes, tea chests, plastic bags, sand, buckets, rubber tubes, cups, cans, lids, basketballs, and even a 7-Up Big Gulp cup. According to co-creator/director Luke Cresswell, the performers “make a rhythm out of anything we can get our hands on that makes a sound,” and that includes themselves.

This unique concept makes for an interesting and sometimes intense theatre experience. The show starts out slowly enough, with a lone performer appearing on stage, pushing a broom in front of him and whacking it on the stage occasionally as he sweeps across the floor. Then another performer appears, also pushing the requisite broom, and then another, and again, until there are eight performers on stage, all using their brooms in every possible way to create a high energy, foot stomping, percussive music that is the complete antithesis of the slow, methodical beginning of the show. Never before has the job of janitor seemed like such fun.

The show continues with a series of different “skits,” each focusing on a different set of common household or junkyard items, all of which are summarily shaken, whacked, tossed, beat upon and even thrown around in every conceivable manner that generates a noise. (Note to those with seats in the first few rows -- you may get a bit dusty and wet from some of the props used on stage. Be forewarned.)

There is a skit that focuses on matchbooks, another that uses plungers, one that employs empty water jugs, and another using newspapers. There is also a wonderful fugue, performed completely in the dark, based entirely on the noise made by flipping open a Zippo lighter. The show even includes a comic bit of toilet humor, involving, of all things, the kitchen sink. Other skits involve many items, and the finale is particularly effective at combining everything from large plastic barrels to tea chests to oil drums.

During the course of the show, you’ll find that what is truly unique about Stomp is not necessarily the talent of the individual performers, many of whom had no percussion experience before joining the production. Instead, what makes the show so enjoyable and even intense at times is the perfect integration of everyone’s individual rhythms and talents into a coherent blend of percussive music, as well as the sheer intensity of the actors’ performances. The improve sections of the show involving the individual performers are still entertaining, but it is the tightly knit and precisely performed choreography that makes this show so invigorating.

In essence, Stomp can be described as a percussion experience that integrates mime, rhythm, tap, kabuki, martial arts, street talent, modern dance, and comedy with enough intensity, precision, and inventiveness to keep the audience’s rapt attention for the full hour-and-a-half show (no intermission). The performance will leave you so energized that you’ll find yourself tapping your feet on your ride home. If you appreciate a good beat, or if you’re just looking for a unique theatre experience in Boston, Stomp is the show for you.