By Cory Bilicko
Proving that just about anything can serve as a musical instrument, Chicago-based Jam Theatricals’ production of Stomp pounded, thumped, drummed, tapped and generally pulsated its way into Long Beach last weekend via the Terrace Theater. You’d have been hard pressed to find an audience member not tapping his or her fingers or feet because the show takes drumming, tap dancing, ballet and comedy to new heights (literally, in some parts), and the percussive effects are contagious.
Watching Stomp is kind of like seeing a parade when the marching-band drum lines pass by you, except, in this case, they’re always present. Instead of using traditional percussion instruments however, the cast of Stomp reappropriates garbage cans and lids, brooms, sink basins, matchboxes, Zippo lighters and even plastic shopping bags to create unexpected music. But the performances are far from static presentations. Each number is a moving, engaging piece that’s so well choreographed, you’re left thinking, “How did they think of that?”
The set for this production is a huge grid-like structure that is a hodgepodge of those trashcan lids, pots, pans, and other metallic, seemingly “found” items that make up a panel of Wasteland that, halfway through the show, comes to life as the performers climb it, affix themselves onto it with straps and utilize it as a tremendous wall of drums. It’s as if the floor had been raised 90 degrees to reveal the musicians doing their stuff, and they are up so high, the circus-type awe they inspire pushes the exhilaration of the drumming to another level.
Stomp, despite its urban America feel, was conceived in Brighton, UK in 1991 by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, who had worked together in a street band and a theatre group that performed a series of street comedy musicals at the Edinburgh festival in the early 1980s. It has since evolved into numerous re-imaginings and established international appeal, with productions in Brazil, Japan and Ausralia.
Stomp is the kind of show that’s hard to categorize. Sure, it’s a musical, but it encompasses so many elements of performance that it stands on its own as a unique creation, and, honestly, no review can do it justice. It needs to be seen, heard and felt first-hand. And, afterwards, you’ll likely not look at a wooden spoon and soup can in the same way. Or for that matter, a recycle bin and a hairbrush, or a mop and bucket, or…