East Penn Press

Tuesday, February 25, 2020
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO“Stomp,” 7:30 p.m. Jan. 16 and 17, State Theatre for the Arts, Easton. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO“Stomp,” 7:30 p.m. Jan. 16 and 17, State Theatre for the Arts, Easton.

‘Stomp’ letting it all out at State Theatre, Easton

Thursday, January 16, 2020 by DAVE HOWELL Special to The Press in Focus

It’s a show with no dialogue and music with no instruments. It’s described as a combination of percussion, movement and visual comedy. It has been seen all over the world, changing itself little by little since it was first staged nearly 30 years ago.

It’s “Stomp,” 7:30 p.m. Jan. 16 and 17, State Theatre for the Arts, Easton.

In scene after scene, its cast beats out rhythm on a variety of objects, which might include brooms, Zippo lighters, garbage cans, plastic bags, newspapers, props recovered from junkyards, and their own bodies. There is plenty of dancing and feats of physical daring.

Touring cast member Josh Cruz says in a phone interview that it is no surprise that “Stomp” is popular everywhere.

“There is no talking, so people from different countries can relate to it. It is all based on rhythms, so they can connect with us. It shows how music can be played with an everyday object. Rhythm is universal, and everyone loves music. There are a lot of funny moments. It appeals to kids all the way up to mature viewers.”

“Stomp” uses a cast of eight onstage, traveling with 12 members so some can take a break from the rigorous performances. The show is highly-choreographed. Before each show, there is a rehearsal that lasts from 30 minutes to one hour.

The urban-looking stage set is elaborate. The show works with two sets, each transported in a full-sized semi-trailer, so one can be sent ahead to the next venue on the tour while a show is being presented.

Cruz says are 13 scenes in the State Theatre show: “Every four years or so the producers add or subtract them. The first one, ‘Brooms,’ has been there from the beginning, and even that one has changed a bit.” In this scene, the brush-end of brooms is used to create shuffles, and the handles are beaten on the floor to create complex rhythm patterns.

“Hands and Feet,” where clapping and stomping are combined, has also been there since the start.

Two new numbers have been added, “Suitcases” and “Poltergeist.”

“Suitcases” was inspired by world travel, from people going through railway stations and airports, and baggage handlers moving luggage.

“Poltergeist” features objects coming out of a TV screen and flying through the air.

Some of the other past and present scenes are “Sinks,” “Plungers,” “Suspension” and “New & Improved Bins with Wobble Boards.”

Even in a large theater like the State, there is audience participation. Says Cruz, “The main character is called Sarge. At one point, he uses his body and hands and facial expressions to engage the audience, and people respond to it like a conversation.”

Each cast member has his or her own character.

“The choices the characters make are different every night. That keeps the show fresh. There are changes for every performer who is learning to play with any object,” says Cruz.

Cruz has played the characters Doctor Who and Mozzie. “Mozzie is short for mosquito. He bothers everyone, and that comes back to him at the end of the show.”

Cast members come and go, with some having more than 20 years of “Stomp” experience. At the time of the 25th anniversary in New York City, 150 or so performers had rotated in and out.

“You learn as you go. It takes about a year to settle in,” says Cruz.

There can be mistakes and even injuries onstage. There are difficult routines, including one with shopping carts and another where Cruz has to walk across huge oil barrels wearing ski boots.

There are three troupes that perform “Stomp.” The American tour is the one visiting Easton. Another is on a European, and eventually world, tour. A third is in residence at the 300 seat Off-Broadway Orpheum Theatre in New York City.

“Stomp” opened at London’s Bloomsbury Theatre in 1991, created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas. The two had been members of the theatrical band Pookiesnackenburger, where McNicholas played violin and Cresswell played percussion. “Stomp” closed recently In London, “Stomp” opened at the Orpheum, New York City, in 1994.

“Stomp” was performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1999. The performers have been on television many times, including the Academy Awards in 1995; “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” and with Paul Simon singing “Cecilia” on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” in 2011. The HBO special “Stomp Out Loud” received an Emmy Award in 1998.

“Stomp” sold out a performance at Lehigh University’s Zoellner Arts Center in November 2018. Publicist Catherine Major says the show in Easton will be about 60 percent the same, being different by adding the two new scenes.

Tickets: State Theatre Center for the Arts box office, 453 Northampton St., Easton; statetheatre.org; 1-800-999-7828; 610-252-3132