STOMP is playing at the Fox this week, and it’s a veritable apotheosis of percussion. And it’s such fun! I’d missed their appearance at the Fox a couple years ago, and let me tell you, last night was well worth the wait.
This energetic, inexhaustible troupe of six men and two women present a vast array of bangs and clangs and booms and stomps that would make a very corpse sit up and tap its toes. Remember the time when Buddy Rich, on The Muppet Show, said, “When I play a theatre, I play the theatre,”—and then proceeded to drum on the proscenium, the walls, the floor? Well, the amazingly gifted percussionists in STOMP pursue that course. They drum on everything.
Time and again we see a rhythm develop gradually from a simple tapping—that one might do in an idle moment—to a gorgeously complex poly-rhythm involving the entire company.
Play is what this evening is all about. They play with an incredible variety of potentially percussible stuff—push-brooms, dust-pans, a vast array of pots and pans, radiator hoses, corrugated drainage tubing, steel and plastic drums, pails, basketballs, huge inner-tubes, shopping carts. And yes, even kitchen sinks! And, would you believe, Zippo lighters? All of this is done with wonderful imagination and with superb musical and dancing skills. Often the entire company is dancing and drumming and whirling with simply stunning precision. One number features the use of long poles whacked together, with the whole company moving and spinning; it’s like a circus-tempo Morris dance blended with a dazzlingly fast battle with quarter-staves. (I hate to think of all the knuckles cracked while this was being perfected.)
In contrast, some of the numbers are almost delicate—as when the instruments are just crumpled newspapers or simply random bits of trash. The dance with push-brooms combines the soft sound of brushes with the sharp knocks of wood against the floor. Some of the wilder drumming has a distinctly African feel—with fierce, irresistible rhythms combined with ecstatically flailing legs and arms and hair.
More than a few musical performances at the Fox are painfully over-amplified. But for most of this evening I had no sense that the drumming was amplified at all—it was just exhilarating. But then, as the whole cast clambered up onto the scaffolding to pound on the huge collection of pots and pans that hung there, I was hit with a barrage of strongly amplified “THUDs,” like those sky-shattering bombs on the 4th of July. Large plastic drums were being mercilessly pounded. But strangely the sound was utterly painless to my ears; it went straight to my spine and shook it most wonderfully!
Of course the signature number in STOMP is the one with garbage cans. It’s unforgettable. Everybody is dancing and banging and crashing like some crazy galvanized Armageddon. One beautifully muscled young man does a fast crouching dance flourishing and crashing two can lids. It has a strange ancient Meso-American feel to it—like an Aztec warrior doing a frenzied sacrificial dance, his silver shields glinting and flashing in the sun.
The whole show is laced with humor, and clearly all concerned—on both sides of the footlights—are having a terrific time.
When STOMP comes to town again give yourself a treat and go see it. It’s one hundred and ten non-stop minutes of sheer delight.