The national touring company of “Stomp,” performing at Kingsbury Hall through Sunday, is living proof that less is sometimes more … and sometimes it’s less, too.
“Stomp” is not a traditional theater experience. There is no storyline or dialogue, nor are there any characters. Instead, eight performers tromp around the stage using brooms, trash cans and anything else they can find — including the proverbial kitchen sink — to create percussion, rhythms and interesting sounds. It’s sort of a dance show, sort of a music show, and sort of a Pringles commercial.
The performers are E. Donisha Brown, Paulo Dos Santos, Andres Fernandez, Coralissa Gines, Jim Holdridge, Mignon A. Mason, Cameron Newlin, Ana Sofia Pomales, Matt Scanlon, Carlos “Peaches” Thomas and Dan Weiner. Only eight perform in any given show, however, and the program gives no indication which ones they are — and, with no photos in the program, we have no clue which performer is which, either.
This minimalistic show has been astoundingly popular all over the world, and there is certainly a great deal of talent exhibited in it. However, there is a great deal of talent exhibited in rebuilding a car engine, too, but that doesn’t make it entertaining to watch. Parts of “Stomp” are truly ingenious and clever, even awe-inspiring. For one number, four cast members hang from ropes and swing back and forth across a wall of odd items (pots, pans, toilet seats, etc.), banging them as they go to make distinct sounds. There is precision in the swinging, the banging and the sounds, and it’s quite impressive. Other numbers feature the sounds and rhythms of the jungle, which is highly energizing to hear. Every cast member dances and moves with great skill, and the timing of the percussion is virtually flawless.
However: An interesting idea and good talent do not a great show make. After a while, we begin to take for granted how clean the rhythms are, and we are no longer particularly impressed by it. I found myself thinking, “Great drum beat. When does the music start?” It’s like movies that expect you to love them just because they have great special effects: Great special effects are the rule now, not the exception. You can’t ride just on that. The same holds true here. Yes, the performers are talented and the rhythms are intricate and well-choreographed. But so what? There needs to be some substance.
The producers of the show realize this, to some extent. The show is only slightly over 90 minutes long, and there are attempts at humor sprinkled throughout, in the hopes of adding some variety. Unfortunately, most of the humor is self-referential, establishing the show’s format and then messing with it. (For example, a guy is shaking a box of matches to make noise, and then the matches fall out. The other cast members look at him with disdain, as if he has ruined the show. Variations on this joke abound. Get your funny bone ready! Ha-ha!)
“Stomp” has moments of grand entertainment; just not enough to sustain an entire show. Worth the $20-$37.50 that tickets cost? Only if you really, really like music created by whacking on trash.
I really wanted to like the show. I expected it to be dazzling. I was disappointed at how quickly the novelty of making music out of odd things wore off.
One person who was not disappointed, however, was a woman sitting a few rows behind us. She screamed during the entire show, and bounced up and down in her seat most of the time, too. I've never seen anyone more fanatic about anything. A few of the cast members who weren't performing that night were sitting in front of me, and even they turned around now and then to see what this woman's deal was. Man, was she ever annoying.
(It was pointed out to me, however, that the noise she was making was no less noisy than the noise the performers were making. The difference, I guess, is that people had paid to see the performers make noise, whereas this woman had received nothing.)