Sunday, March 16, 2008

They've Got A Lot Of Sole

What do you get when you take ordinary objects like push brooms, newspapers, rubber hoses, plastic and paper bags, empty water jugs, plungers, folding chairs, basketballs, Zippo lighters, trash cans and trash can lids, the occasional 55-gallon drum, and yes, even the kitchen sink...

...and combine them all with bushels of creativity and more rhythm than ordinary human beings should be allowed to possess?

You get...STOMP!

Yesterday I went to see the percussive performance group at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, unsure of what to expect. I'd heard glowing reviews from a couple people, and read even more online.

But the age range among the people with whom I was attending stretched from kindergarten through AARP member. So I was hoping there was enough appeal in the show to entertain everyone.

There was.

The show starts with one lonely individual walking out on stage with a broom, and as he sweeps the floor, a rhythm begins to build. He's joined by a friend...and then another, and another...until the entire eight-person cast is on the floor, all making magic with push brooms.

They did that throughout the show, using all of the items mentioned above, among others. Many of the props were accompanied by clapping and...wait for it...stomping of their boots on the floor to add different layers to the beats.

The rehearsal time that must go into a show like that has to be immeasurable, to get the choreography down as well as they do. Because if you don't bounce a basketball from the correct height, it won't hit the floor at the right time, and that particular beat has just passed you by.

During one skit, four of the members came out with stainless steel sinks hanging around their necks and used the sounds of rubber gloves against the metal and drumsticks against pots and pans filled with various levels of water to create the rhythm.

And after getting the floor more than a little wet from some overzealous drumming, other members come on stage and put on a show among the puddles using plungers.

It's all very unique, very percussive, very creative.

Have you ever looked at a Zippo lighter as a percussion instrument? All eight members came out on a darkened stage in a single line, and had the crowd's full attention by flicking them on and clicking them closed, the tiny flames lighting the stage.

The beats and the odd props and the energy, I expected. The comedy...I didn't. But there was plenty of that to go around as well.

Although there were no spoken words in the entire hour and a half show, save for a few grunts and "wup!" sounds as they performed their skits, each member's personality came through, from the confident leader who urged the crowd to mimic some of the clapping and finger-snapping rhthyms he demonstrated, to the comedic hit of the cast member who tried so hard to fit in, but was always a step or two slow. His timing was impeccable.

The first hour of the show was relatively tame, noise level-wise, but the last half hour included some of their trademark metal garbage can drumming and lid smashing, along with a slow, plodding, Imperial Walker-esque trek across the stage by several members with 55-gallon drums attached to their feet.

After the show was over, I asked my six-year-old niece if she thought it was a lot of fun, or if it was too loud.

"Toooo loud," she immediately answered.

But more than once I saw her clapping along with the lead member, and laughing at the funny guy, and staring pretty intently at the action on the stage.

So maybe it was a combination of the two.

I think I'd still give a slight edge to Blue Man Group, but STOMP! far exceeded my expectations. And as they were highly recommended to me, I can also highly recommend them as an unforgettable, high-energy performance.

OK, now...what can you do with an empty yogurt container and a plastic spoon? Grab a couple friends and find out! It's a percussion instrument!

"Pop art for the ears.
Rhythm for the eyes.
Theatre for the feet."
—from a review in an Australian newspaper

1 comment:

  1. Hey there GGG! It would figure that your little niece would think it would be too loud. I'd say it would've been both. Wish I was there! See you later!