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A CurtainUp Review

By Joan Eshkenazi

Although Stomp opened at the Orpheum Theatre in New York in February 1994, the spontaneity and excitement generated in this small, intimate theatre almost six years later makes one feel that the show was just born. In a nonstop one hour and forty-five minute performance, the audience is treated to a symphony of rhythmic percussion and movement using anything but standard instruments and choreography. Many shows have subsequently been influenced by the work created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, but I doubt whether they retain the freshness and creativity of Stomp.

Sixteen performers are listed in the program, with Fiona Wilkes being the only cast member from the original production. Eight equally talented "stompers" alternate each night in displaying their talents. Whether it is the strong movements of Keith "Wild Child" Middleton or the more comedic moments with Davi Vieira, we are captivated with the action on stage. The group interacts miraculously with each other never missing the beat.

Who needs a piano in the house when brooms will do? What about those trash cans or oil drums? Gave up smoking? Try playing those lighters for a lullaby! Any old rubber tubes around the house? Marimbas are too cumbersome in Manhattan apartments anyway. Everything, including the kitchen sink, can be used by this orchestra -- with or without the water.

And can these performers move! Many of the cast members have strong dance training. Stephanie Marshall studied with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Mindy Haywood was a principal dancer with Jubilation! Dance Co. and the Clive Thompson Dance Co. Raquel Horsford holds a BA in Dance from Reuters University. Although Henry W. Snead Jr. is a premed. student at Stanford, he hasn't let that stump his style as he stomps. The performance list includes the composers Michael Paris and Jason Mills. Taro Alexander, Michael Bove, Maria Emilia Breyer, Kimmarie Lynch, Raymond Poitier, Marivaldo Dos Santos, John Sawicki, complete current lineup.

Without a word spoken on stage, different characterizations clearly emerge. We might identify with a poor soul, or a soulful Emmett Kelly type. The use of mime, rhythm is taught to the audience -- a Herculean task for the endearing performer. It's not always easy to get an audience to join in, but he succeeds! This desire to please on both ends is part of the message of Stomp.

Steve McNicholas and Neil Tiplady effectively light the junk set of pots, pans, hubcaps, ladders, street signs and other pilfered items from the streets of New York. It's all good, clean fun -- an evening of unique theatre anyone from age seven to seventy can experience. I had some fear of acoustical deafness but found that the evening held a variety of percussive strength with modulation. Only a few moments of trash can crescendos caused a brief discomfort. I would do the show a disservice if I continue to describe the evening for surprise is one of Stomp's most successful components. If you're visiting New York, this long-lived little show should be on your list. If you are in New York and haven't seen it yet, why not?

Created and Directed by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas
Lighting by Steve McNicholas and Neil Tiplady
Current Cast (in alphabetical order): Taro Alexander, Michael Bove, Maria Emilia Breyer, Mindy Haywood, Raquel Horsford, Kimmarie Lynch, Stephanie Marshall, Keith "Wild Child" Middleton, Jason Mills, Michael Paris, Rymond Poitier, Marivaldo Dos Santos, John Sawicki, Henry W. Shead, Jr., Davi Vieira, Fiona Wilkes
Orpheum, 126 Second Ave., (7th/8th Sts), 477-2477/ 307-4100
Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes.
Performances since February 1994
Reviewed by Joan Eshkenazi based on 9/28/99 performance

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