Lots of shows have found their beginnings in the smaller theaters Off Broadway, but few can boast of starting “across the pond,” then bringing the original show to off-Broadway, only to return to their beginnings after circling the world. Stomp, which is now shaking the rafters at the Durham Performing Arts Center, is one of those shows. The show began in 1991 in Brighton, UK, so it will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year, but the kids in the audience at DPAC during the show’s run responded to the rhythms and infectious percussions as if the show was born yesterday. Stomp truly shook the theater’s rafters — and Triangle theater goers proved their ability to keep up with the show’s tempo when they responded to the show’s call-and-response.
The show’s creators, Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, worked together when both were members of a street band and theatre group in the UK. STOMP was originally the band’s stage show. After creating a “percussive movie” for Bette Midler and four large-scale outdoor events, Cresswell and McNicholas previewed the first version of Stomp at London’s Bloomsbury Theatre. The show soon started garnering awards like the Guardian’s “Critic’s Choice” and the Daily Express’s “Best of the Fringe” award. The show moved to other venues around the world, playing to capacity audiences, before returning to London’s Sadler’s Wells theater in January 1994 and winning “Best Choreography in a West End Show.”
In 1994, the show started a run at the Orpheum Theatre in New York, then won an OBIE and a Drama Desk award, cementing its time in the States. An American cast was put into place, and the original cast began selling out throughout the rest of North America and in Japan. The snowball continued with new production companies opening in major U.S. cities and Europe. The show morphed, its music included in soundtracks and on music albums, the cast appeared on the Academy Awards, produced a TV special for HBO called Stomp Out Loud and an IMAX movie called Pulse: A Stomp Odyssey. The successes continued onstage, as well, with performances being added on the world’s stages throughout the early 2000s, culminated in a Las Vegas version of Stomp Out Loud opening in 2007. The show was reworked in 2008 into the version performed for the Bull City.
The show opens with men sweeping the stage with janitor-sized brooms. All the audience hears is the musician’s/actor’s grunts and the beat and tap of the brooms against the stage. One is reminded of the Mary Poppins’ scene where the chimney sweepers use their chimney brooms in a high-kicking dance on London’s roofs. This reviewer attended the New York show more than a decade ago and remembers the original performance as smaller and more “street” oriented. This performance is more polished, in spite of the performers’ gritty appearance.
The sounds are the “other character” in this show. Grunts become beats, tapping shoes coordinate with sweeping brushes. Even the smallest sounds — a nail file shaving a fingernail — is amplified and rhythmatized (a new word designed for this show). It’s Rap for stage/dance. It’s street language choreographed to commonly found items.
During a solo, clapping and tapping becomes a call-and-response for the audience. Dust flies into the stage lights and the subtlety of fingers snapping and double clapping becomes a sort of sign language. The soloist pantomimes that the guy in the front row missed the clap “because you’re drinking too much.” Though not a word is said throughout the performance, the audience gets the humor and responds, as they do with the clapping and tapping.
Eight performers, including Leilani Dibble, a cast member for almost a decade and a yoga teacher at Bikram Yoga Durham, act as “buskers” (street entertainers). The touring company actually includes 12 members, though only eight perform on any given evening. Because the show is so physically demanding, the lineup changes with each performance. The other drummers/dancers /singers include John Angeles, Ivan Delaforce, Eric Fay, Andrés Fernandez, Cammie Griffin, Mike Hall, Delaunce Jackson, Alexis Juliano, Jeremy Price, Ivan Salazar, and Reggie Talley. Dibble calls the show “the original backyard, junkyard band. ‘Stomping’ is now considered a genre of dance.”
The eight roles in the show are named for the original STOMP performers: Bin Bitch, Cornish, Doctor Who, Mozzie, Particle Man, Potato Head, Ringo and Sarge. The performers work with a variety of odd instruments that aren’t quite instruments: wooden poles, plungers, trash cans, brooms, paint cans, and drum sticks. The rhythm that they produce is so infectious that DPAC‘s audience is on their feet, hooting and hollering, offering their own sense of rhythm by responding to the claps and taps almost as if they were rehearsed ahead of time.
As the creators planned, the street sound came to DPAC‘s stage and the filled-to-capacity theater became the ninth performer, raising the rafters and the spirits of everyone at the event. It’s a triumphant show, filled with the joy of street sounds, and Durhamites responded and had a rollicking good time.
SECOND OPINION: Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the March 25th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2015/03/stomp-tour-veteran-leilani-dibble-of-durham-will-perform-in-four-shows-at-dpac-on-march-27-29/.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents STOMP at 8 p.m. March 27, 2 and 8 p.m. March 28, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. March 29 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $35.25-$80.40 (including fees). Click here for DPAC Special Offers.
DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/where-to-buy.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/2062372.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqRm1R-Uwlk. TOUR CAST: http://www.stomponline.com/tour_performers.html.
DPAC NEWS RELEASE: http://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/the-international-percussion-sensation-stomp-comes-to-dpac-from-march-27-to-march-29.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://twitter.com/DPAC, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Performing_Arts_Center.
Stomp (1991 physical theater piece, created in Brighton, UK, and performed in the West End and Off Broadway since 1994): http://www.stomp.co.uk/ (Stomp International website), http://www.stomponline.com/ (Stomp USA website), http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stomp_%28theatrical_show%29 (Wikipedia).
Luke Cresswell (creator and director): http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luke_Cresswell (Wikipedia).
Steve McNicholas (creator and director): http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_McNicholas (Wikipedia).
Leilani Dibble (cast member): http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database), http://www.broadwayworld.com/people/Leilani-Dibble/ (BroadwayWorld.com page), https://myspace.com/teenieweeniewahine (restricted MySpace profile), https://www.facebook.com/leilani.dibble (Facebook page).
Dawn Reno Langley is a Durham, NC-based author who writes novels, poetry, children’s books, and nonfiction books on many subjects, as well as theater reviews. She is also Dean of General Education and Developmental Studies at Piedmont Community College in Roxboro, where she oversees the theater program at the Kirby Cultural Arts Complex, and a member of the Person County Arts Council. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/. To read more of her writings, click http://dawnrenolangley.com/.