By Brooke Phillips
For more than 15 years now, audiences around the world have grooved and moved to the beats and rhythms of STOMP. This original combination of percussion, movement and visual comedy has been updated since it was last in Atlanta, part of an ongoing creative evolution that reaches back to the show’s beginnings in the UK in the early 1990s.
From the get-go, there was always more to STOMP than a straight-up percussion and dance show. Everyday household objects like chairs and tires were suddenly part of larger symphony of movement and seemingly spontaneous rhythm. Creators Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas worked together for 10 years, fine-tuning their performance ideas. The two originally met in 1981 as members of the street band, Pookiesnackenburger, and the theater group, Cliff Hangers. Both of these groups found success doing a series of street comedy festivals at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the early ’80s. Other artistic ventures followed, including two albums, a TV show, and extensive touring in support of the band. Cresswell, who is a self-taught percussionist, and McNicholas, who is an actor/writer/musician, were both veterans of the festival circuit and by 1991 were able to finance, direct and produce STOMP.
The show was a critical success at that year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. From then, the show became a phenomenon and took on life of its own, with multiple on-going productions, sold-out audiences and numerous awards, including an Olivier Award for Best Choreography (London’s Tony Award), a New York Obie Award, a Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatre Experience, and a Special Citation from Best Plays. In 2006, the New York production of STOMP celebrated its 500th performance. More recently, in 2007, STOMP OUT LOUD opened in Las Vegas at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino with an expanded cast and a new $28 million theater, specifically created for the production. Clearly, audiences everywhere have taken to STOMP’s mesmerizing display of musical and rhythmic theatricality.
“After creating new routines for STOMP OUT LOUD in Vegas, Luke Cresswell and I decided it was time to rework elements of our main production, STOMP,” said co-creator Steve McNicholas. “STOMP has evolved a great deal ever since its first incarnation at the Edinburgh Festival. Every reworking has involved losing some pieces and gaining new ones, but has always stayed true to the original premise of the show: to create rhythmic music with instantly recognizable objects, and do it with an eccentric sense of character and humor. We wanted to shake things up a bit, make it fresher.”
One of the new routines was influenced by a routine using boxes that they created for the Vegas Show. “It involves catching and throwing, which makes great rhythms and shapes,” says Cresswell. “For the touring show, we wanted to use little paint cans because they sound great, but it’s very complex and hard to do, and the cast hates me,” Cresswell jokes.
Another addition to the show features giant tractor tire inner tubes. Cresswell calls this routine “Donuts.” Performers secure the giant tubes around their waists with a bungee cord and play rhythm with drumsticks.
“I think as the show has developed, the performers have gotten better and better,” Cresswell says. “And, we have changed the choreography and other things to keep pushing them, keep striving. So, we’re constantly trying to evolve the show and make it stronger.”
Veteran STOMP fans may remember the climactic trashcan sequence “Bins.” This, too, has been restructured to include another creative newly found instrument: strip-lighting recycling containers. These will join the ranks of the other members of STOMP’s musical family — plastic bags, plungers, boots, brooms, zippo lighters and hubcaps — as one of the many ordinary items that become part of the legendary rhythm orchestra of unlikely objects.
STOMP will play The Fabulous Fox Theatre Jan. 27-Feb. 1.