Wednesday, February 5, 2014

STOMP Theatre Review

One Man's Trash is Another's Treasure

STOMP has been around for just over 20 years, debuting around the same time that TV's MacGyver was winding down its successful, seven-season run on ABC. You're probably wondering... What does MacGyver have to do with a broadway show? Well, it all boils down to resourcefulness. The aforementioned secret agent extraordinaire could make a bomb out of duct tape and a piece of wire. The cast of STOMP spends almost two hours proving that's mere "child play." After all, could the mighty MacGyver keep a full house at National Theatre entertained with a book of matches or a plastic bag? How about a shopping cart with an empty jug of water? No, I didn't think so. Cast of STOMP 1 MacGyver 0.

Believe it or not, last night's opening was my first STOMP experience. I had an inkling of what to expect... High energy, lots of jumping around and music; but nothing prepares you for the unorthodox entertainment provided by the show's dressed-down octet. It begins with one guy sweeping, then two, then three... Before you know it, you're watching synchronized sweeping on an Olympic level (minus the dirty drinking water & double toilet stalls.)

But it doesn't stop there. In addition to brooms, there's also buckets, mops, newspapers, soup ladles... You name it, and odds are - these gifted percussionists can make sweet music out of it. In fact, one wonders if there's anything out there they couldn't turn into audio gold.

What makes all this "noise" even more impressive, is that the cast doesn't really speak. Sure, there's an occasional "whew," or "yeah;" but for the most part, STOMP lets its instruments do the talking. That's not to say that the stars don't communicate. They do, and richly so. There's plenty of laughs, and even audience participation (clap, clap... repeat) which keeps the audience involved, right up to the very last turn of the broom.

No two acts are the same; but I'd be lying if I told you they were holding my attention with brown paper bags & empty soda cups. I prefer to watch the athletic entertainers dazzle with shopping cart bumper cars and an incredibly creative pocket lighter display (in the dark.) By the time Mike Hall creates a full ensemble out of newspaper (including knockers) the whole theater was in stitches. And that's before he twerks!

Laughs aside (Guido Mandozzi steals the show) some of the stuff they come up with is out-of-this-world amazing. Dueling basketballs, a la the Harlem Globetrotters is downright captivating, as are the show's loudest moments... An incredible upstairs drum performance, exceeded only by a trash can extravaganza that could literally wake up the dead. STOMP is not quiet (Heck no.) It's loud and in your face at times, followed by moments of near quiet (let's just say... plastic bags don't make as much noise as a trash can lid.)

Best of all, the cast moves around with a purpose. Who needs radios anyhow? You definitely want to have these guys around during a power outage. Without saying a word, the group speaks volumes (especially Mandozzi and unofficial master of ceremonies Mike Silvia.) They may not look like much, but they know to work a crowd.

STOMP appears at the National Theatre for a limited run, February 4-9. Tickets start at $40 and are available online (click here) or at the box office. There's also a lottery before each show, which gives you a chance to purchase up to two tickets for just $25 each. Click here for more information.

Grade: B