The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, in partnership with Florida Theatrical Association and Broadway Across America, brought the international percussion sensation STOMP to Orlando as a season option for the 2015-2016 FAIRWINDS Broadway in Orlando Series. This included a limited run at the Dr. Phillips Center for two performances only on March 23 and 24, 2016. I was present for the first night. This was my first time seeing STOMP and I was so excited to see this performance in person. I had seen videos of the magic sounds this group makes but finally I was going to experience it.
A unique combination of percussion, movement, and visual comedy, STOMP has created its own inimitable, contemporary form of rhythmic expression: both household and industrial objects find new life as musical instruments in the hands of an idiosyncratic band of body percussionists. It is a journey through sound, a celebration of the everyday and a comic interplay of characters wordlessly communicating through dance and drum.
I started out taking photos from the back for the first 12 minutes, which was the opening dust broom sequence. This was my only opportunity allowed to take photos but it was enough to capture the essence of the stage. Everyone has had to sweep a floor at some point in life. It can be boring, of course. But if you sweep like these performers do, it can turn out to be a fun time. Noticing every little sound from each motion and heightening your senses can really take you on an auditory journey. The performers get whatever sounds out of the objects as possible; for example, with the brooms, they were sweeping, brushing, chopping, swirling, and even turned the brooms upside down to tap the handle. I feel like I make beats from random actions to some extent every day. Whether it’s at my desk tapping my feet while working, typing on the keyboard, doing dishes, drumming my steering wheel while driving, or whatever the case may be, I can always find a beat somewhere in any menial task I may be doing.
After the broom sequence was done and the photo time was over, I made my way to my seat which was in the fourth row of this very beautiful and architecturally stunning theater. There was a special floor designed perfectly for enhancing the stomp sounds and microphones were lining the perimeter. It was such a difference from watching the show from the back to instantly being up close and personal with the performers. Being able to clearly see every move made, I was drawn in and felt more in touch with the show and, at times, make eye contact with a performer which was very awkwardly funny.
There was an underlying theme throughout the play. One of the performers’ character seemed to be the outsider new guy. This provided some comic relief as he struggled to fit in and be accepted. The show also featured several unique segments, each with various objects that challenged the performers to make funky hip-hop jazz beats all while stomping their feet, of course. The stage set featured several random objects such as corrugated metal paneling walls, stop signs, hubcaps, barrels, boxes, poles, etc. The upper level featured three drummer stations with random objects on a chain-link fence. Probably my highlight of the show happened here, with three performers strapping themselves in and dangling their feet on the fence in a commanding position to just bang away on the objects in front of them.
One thing I enjoyed was singling out a performer and just watching their moves or pretending to be in their shoes and understanding the focus that goes into each individual’s sound and how together, they collectively make a sweet beat with whatever random prop they had. Focusing on all of the sounds individually, it can seem like complete unorganized random chaos. But somehow, you can tell your brain to put all of the sounds together — it’s really mind-blowing how it all flows. This was an amazing experience and “props” to the cast and crew for an incredible production not only of sight but of sound.
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STOMP Live Photos by Richie Williams, The Sober Goat.
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