'Stomp' still delivers smiles, 15 years after its first U.S. tour

But the show could be more relevant if it tapped into the digital tools of the 21st Century. Maybe even cellphones, seeing as they were ringing in the audience anyway.

Crosscut archive image.

But the show could be more relevant if it tapped into the digital tools of the 21st Century. Maybe even cellphones, seeing as they were ringing in the audience anyway.

I never noticed that "Stomp" has stagehands poised to toss out replacement brooms whenever a handle accidentally snaps during the fierce opening number of the show. On Tuesday, as the 11-person troupe began a six-show run at the Paramount, the replacement brooms were flying fast and furious — with busted ones swapped for the fresh with nary a missed beat.

"Stomp" was pumped. From the first moment, the amplification was crisp and controlled, the audience was ready, and the buff percussionists were coiled with intensity. Set up so well, there was absolutely no denying the irresistible energy of "Stomp," no matter how many past viewings, ticket costs, or heightened expectations. (It's been touring for 15 years in America already! Word is out!)

Though it wears an unpainted, masculine face, "Stomp" is basically sure-fire musical-theater seduction. The hip young drummer-dancers take the stage with attitude, moving through a dozen prop-driven songs (intensifying odes to brooms, trash cans, rubber tubes, newspaper, and more), with the performers always making eye contact with us and giving little glimpses of "hidden" feeling or fact (the clownish one exposes his heart or annoyance, the invincible one drops his matchsticks).

There is no dialogue, and there are no tacky dance routines to wince at. The rhythm-stallions of "Stomp" just "play" their bodies, instrument-style, slapping their hands and chests and thighs to calibrated effect. Group movement patterns rise organically from the properties of the props (low crabwalks when they’re smacking tubes to the floor, high-flying balls drawing patterns in the air during rhythmic tossing patterns), and there’s no emotion attached to the formation or dissolve of any group.

Though the audience is invited to "play" along at times, the plot-less two hours of interludes rarely evoke emotional entanglement. It's casual and fun and accessible. All the sections deftly supply a satisfying package of arousal and sustainment and climax. It's one of those shows where endorphins flood the house from the first number and are never allowed to fully ebb.

Thus "Stomp" delivers a smile that won't fade for a half-hour after it's over.  

But will you remember it in the morning? Does that matter?

"Stomp" could be made more relevant at this point, if they wanted to tackle the digital elephant in the room (accidental audience cellphone noises went ignored — unheard? — by performers). In fact, "Stomp" creators Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas are touring a new piece this year called "Pandemonium: The Lost and Found Orchestra," but it continues to dig up props solely from the garage and tool shop (saws, bottles, bellows, radiator pipes, etc).

People still handle these materials. But today's grunt work is overwhelmingly digitized! Plus, Cresswell once said of "Stomp" that he wanted to take sounds that "annoy" us and transform them. So I retain my fantasy, against the odds, of one day seeing an onstage exploration of those supermarket checkout clerks who can plug in produce codes in song rhythm and a skyful of broken cellphones flying in and out and in and out from the wings.

If you go: "Stomp," through Nov. 14, Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., Seattle. Tickets cost $29.50-$40 and are available by phone, 1-877-784-4849, or online.


Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors