“STOMP” is a 90-minute, nonstop action-filled show where one learns that just about anything — from garbage cans to plastic bags, to matchboxes — and even the kitchen sink — can be incorporated into a segment.
Nearing its 40th year, “STOMP” is a unique combination of percussion, movement and visual comedy, created in Brighton, U.K., in the summer of 1991, the result of a 10-year collaboration between its creators, Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas.
Its success has to have been a “gotcha” nod from all those pot-banging kids whose mothers told them to stop making all that noise.
The group first worked together in 1981 as members of the street band Pookiesnackenburger and the theater group Cliff Hanger. Together, these groups presented a series of street comedy musicals at the
Edinburgh fringe festival throughout the early ’80s.
After two albums, a U.K. TV series and extensive touring throughout Europe, Pookiesnackenburger also produced the highly acclaimed “Bins” commercial for Heineken lager. The piece was originally written and choreographed by Cresswell as part of the band’s stage show; it proved to be the starting point for the “STOMP” climactic garbage can dance. (It’s worth checking out “Heineken bin commercial” on YouTube!)
In 1991, Cresswell and McNicholas first created “STOMP,” previewing at London’s Bloomsbury Theater and premiering at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh, where it became the Guardian’s Critic’s Choice and won the Daily Express “Best of Fringe” award.
Between 1991 and 1994 the original cast played to capacity audiences around the world, from Hong Kong to Barcelona to Dublin to Sydney.
“STOMP” began its run at the Orpheum theater in New York in February of 1994 and quickly went on to win both an Obie and a Drama Desk award for “Most Unique Theater Experience.” By the summer of 1994, the first American cast was in place at the Orpheum, freeing the original cast for sellout tours of North America and Japan. The company made a special appearance at the Academy Awards in 1996, with an original piece involving live synchronization of classic film clips and onstage action, featuring 20 performers from all five nominated movies.
“STOMP” performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in an after-midnight performance as part of President Clinton’s millennium celebration and later there was a Muppet-“STOMP” collaboration for
In 2006, the New York production passed its 5,000th performance, and in 2011 as it entered its 18th year at the Orpheum Theater, beating the previous winner at that theater, “Little Shop of Horrors.”
Most recently, 40 performers from 12 different countries appeared together in the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic games.
The program lists 12 performers, men and women, in the cast: Kayla Cowart, Jonathon Elkins, Desmond Howard, Alexis Juliano, Guido Mandozzi, Artis Olds, Jeremy Price, Krystal Renée, Ivan Salazar, Cade Slattery, Steve Weiss and Joe White.
It is impossible to tell who is who, other than “the guy in the baggy pants who got the audience clapping, the girl with purple hair, the childish guy with the odd hat,” etc.
There is also no program credit for the multi-level set design, but on stage is a metal wall hung with all sorts of noisemakers, from hubcaps to highway signs to oversized plastic bins.
Steve McNicholas and Neil Tiplady are credited with lighting design, and the lights playing a huge role in the feel of the show. Some of the best numbers were lit from each side of the stage, casting large, eery shadows on the theater walls and giving it the effect of some ancient tribe dancing by the light of a fire in a cave somewhere.
Choreography for numbers with brooms, wooden sticks and a number of other things rivals the synchronization of the Rockettes.
There was audience involvement, too, as increasingly more complicated hand claps were demonstrated so the audience could respond — and respond they did.
Not surprising, there was an enthusiastic standing ovation as the group appeared on stage for one final encore.
“STOMP” was last here in 2008, so it is unlikely that it will return again soon. Take the opportunity to see it while you can.