Review: ‘STOMP’ at the National Theatre

Started by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1991, STOMP is a cacophony of sounds produced by common objects in lieu of musical instruments. An amalgam of music, dance, and street theater, STOMP is sound and fury, signifying pure entertainment and raucous energy – a frenetic foot-storm that you can’t watch and remain still.

STOMP, created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas. Photo by Steve McNicholas.
STOMP, created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas.
Photo by Steve McNicholas.

 

STOMP is a challenge to the eardrums with plenty of audience interaction – it’s eclectic in its visual and musical choices. Where else can you see brooms, hubcaps, garbage cans, matchboxes, wooden poles, and even Zippo lighters used to create such strange and beautiful music? The origins of the show go back as far as 1988, when Cresswell, a self-taught percussionist from Brighton, England, and McNicholas, an actor/musician/singer from Yorkshire, England, made an eight-minute percussive movie for Bette Midler’s “Mondo Beyondo.” Their 15-minute short “Brooms,” was nominated for an Academy Award and “STOMP OUT LOUD,” for HBO, received four Emmy nominations.

One look at this grungy, colorful street-scene set and you’ll say to yourself, “This is going to be fun.” On opening night, the gorgeous National Theatre was filled with the energy of young people, families, and the young at heart.

The cast, who did all their talking through percussion and movement, included Kayla Cowart, Jonathan Elkins, Joe White, Steve Weiss, Cade Slattery, Ivan Salazar, Krystal Renée, Jeremy Price, Artis Olds, Guido Mandozzi, Cary Lamb Jr., and Alexis Juliano.

Juliano was a finalist on the TV show “So You Think You Can Dance.” Olds teaches an interactive virtual stepping exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Renée is the frontwoman of a rock band she started, Krystal. Lamb has tap-danced for the Brooklyn Nets, the New York Mets, and at the Apollo Theatre.

This is a prop-heavy show and each scene had a distinct, unspoken theme. One of the first could have been titled “Don’t bring a mop to a broom dance.” Olds started the scene off by pushing a broom, and from there it became a symphony of wood.

There was a hilarious number with sinks and water that included a naughty sight-gag. One of the more mesmerizing sequences involved cigarette lighters–in the dark. The lighting, by Neil Tiplady and McNicholas, was most effective when spotlighting various performers, otherwise surrounded by darkness.

STOMP, created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas. Photo by Steve McNicholas.
STOMP, created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas.
Photo by Steve McNicholas.

The organized madness went on, from a synchronized basketball ditty, to rhythmic stick fights, to newspaper tearing by-the-beat, to shopping cart pushing and trash can stomping–even multi-performer cross-stage juggling. There were several interludes in which the audience were directed to clap along with a performer. STOMP is a triumph of musical percussion–catch it while it’s in town!

 

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

STOMP plays through April 28, 2019, at The National Theatre – 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC. Call the box office for tickets (800) 514-3849, or purchase them online.