‘Stomp’ at The National Theatre by Jessica Vaughan

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The Off-Broadway classic Stomp stops once more in DC for an explosive celebration of sound, dance, comedy and every day household objects with a fine cast of veterans and new performers. Stomp won a Drama Desk Award for “Most Unique Theatre Experience” when it first hit Off-Broadway at The Orpheum Theatre in ’94 and it is still in competition for the title, even though it’s now practically an institution – touring continuously for over 20 years.

The cast of 'STOMP' and donuts. Photo by Steve McNicholas.
The cast of ‘STOMP’ and donuts. Photo by Steve McNicholas.

Eight performers take the stage each night of a cast of 12. The current performers are Ivan Delaforce, Eric Fay, Andrés Fernandez, Cammie Griffin, Mike Hall, Delaunce Jackson, Karisma Jay, Guido Mandozzi, Andre Meggerson, Nancy Rubio, John Sawicki, and Carlos Thomas. About half come to Stomp from a percussion background and half from a dance background but it’d be difficult to tell onstage as the whole cast churns out incredible rhythms with impressive moves.

Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, the original creators, also direct this tour. These two started Stomp at the Edinburgh Fringe in the 80’s as a street performance that broke down the barrier between theater, dance, and music by using every imaginable household appliance and body part to create rhythm.

As big a hit as it is, they haven’t strayed far from those roots. The set is a street scene with a mish-mash of oil bins, signs, ladders, pipes and more that all serve as part of the drum set and the performers are dressed in work clothes – painted and torn as they one by one they take the stage with brooms to create the first rhythmic piece.

In a concert of percussion, Cresswell and McNicholas do a good job of exploring unique and varied pieces. My favorites were the pieces like the brooms that were quite a serious exploration of rhythm. In another piece they used pipes of different tones to create a small symphony and in another giant sticks.

Other pieces were more comedic as one performer played the clown. One hilarious piece involved matchboxes, another newspapers – which make quite a lot of noise – and another shopping carts.

The shopping carts were part of another trend throughout the show of amazing visuals. They weren’t just up there to make some noise. They spun those carts and themselves all around the stage. Another piece with basketballs was impressive, as was one involving paint cans thrown across the stage in perfect synchronization. As the night went on, they went bigger with oil drums on their feet or huge inner tubes strapped to their waists.

A highlight was a knockdown blowout piece that meshed all of these elements as performers hung from climbing harnesses and banged on everything onstage. It shook the building, enhanced by a frenetic lighting design by co-creator Steve McNicholas and Neil Tiplady. Another highlight was a piece that had no lighting whatsoever. All eight performers stood onstage in the pitch black with lighters, flicking them on and off to exploit that familiar click.

The cast is what makes Stomp what it is, and these guys have great rapport. Their synchronization is also incredible. It is a lot of fun to watch them together, enjoying the beat.

The cast of 'Stomp.' Photo by Steve McNicholas.
The cast of ‘Stomp.’ Photo by Steve McNicholas.

For Stomp aficionados, the latest tour will not disappoint, and for those of you who kind of always wanted to see it, there is no time like the present. Stomp is a full-body, crazy evening of joyful rhythm and dance. I will never think of trashcans the same.

Running time: One hour and 45 minutes, with no intermission.

Stomp plays through February 9, 2014 at The National Theatre – 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, in Washington, D.C. Call the box office for tickets (800) 514-3849, or purchase them online.

Two hours before performances, the theater releases $25 tickets by lottery at the box office.