The Beat Goes On: After 20 Years, STOMP Is Still Going Strong
Let me start this review by saying that I have seen STOMP a few times on tour. So when I went to see it this week at San Diego’s Balboa Theatre, I was pretty sure I knew what to expect. And I was certain there would not be any surprises.
I was wrong.
STOMP, if you have not heard, uses everyday household objects like brooms, plastic bags, newspapers, trashcans and boxes of matches as instruments. In fact, the STOMP crew finds music in everything but the kitchen sink. (Oops, make that everything including the kitchen sink!) The show, created and directed by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, first hit the stage in 1991 at London’s Bloomsbury Theatre. Three years later, it was on Broadway, and a year after that, the first U.S. tour began.
My previous encounters with STOMP took place at the San Diego Civic Theatre, a much larger venue than the Balboa. While the show certainly resonated there, I think the move to the Balboa was a smart one. The smaller, more intimate house really drew me into the performance, and I felt enveloped by the sound.
The choreography and lighting, however, are what really made this particular performance sing. Yes, there were the usual “can’t believe your ears” moments, when the slightest movements produced a euphony of sound. And my favorite act, the Zippo lighter routine, was, well, on fire. But the intricate way in which the eight talented STOMPers (including native San Diegans Mike Landis and Mike Silvia) moved about the stage brought the show to life visually. Many of the same sounds and rhythms could be created standing in place, and would still be impressive. The fact that the cast created them while twisting, turning, leaping and even swinging to and fro while suspended in a harness (sometimes even upside-down), made STOMP a feast for the eyes as well as the ears.
Lighting Director Tim Reeve (also a San Diegan) added another tasty layer of meat to that visual buffet, most noticeably, through the use of shadows.
The “Poles” number, which has a decidedly tribal feel, felt even more so, with the shadows cast on the theatre walls. Suddenly there were double, even triple the number of performers, as those shadow STOMPers made their way down the outside aisles.
The actual performers never missed a beat, despite a broken broomstick and a wayward basketball. Their lightning-quick reaction to these minor bobbles created a show-within-the-show, and I almost wished something else would go “wrong,” just to see how they would “right” it.
Despite having seen the show multiple times, this performance felt fresh and different. The new location, the addition of some new numbers and the delight of nearby audience members seeing the show for the first time made it a new experience for me, too, and I often found myself STOMPing along.
I left the theatre with my head pounding and my ears ringing, and a desire to make a little noise of my own by spreading the word to GO SEE THIS SHOW!
STOMP is at the Balboa Theatre through this Sunday, April 24th. Click here for showtimes.
If you’re still not convinced, here’s a preview: