‘STOMP’ brings its bang-up spectacle to Capital One Hall

With its innovative use of everyday objects as instruments and dance accessories, the show has become an international phenomenon.

By Ian Kirkland

My introduction to the world of STOMP transpired in the muggy basement classroom of a Montessori school in northern Virginia. The previous morning’s forecast had promised snow, and by the time lunch was over we had still not forgiven the rain that had taken its place and guaranteed another tedious school day. We were restless yet tired, and so was our kind, if slightly frazzled, music teacher Mrs. Lowry, so out came the projector. Reluctantly, we rallied around the image and waited for boredom to strike. What awaited us was anything but.

Scene from ‘STOMP.’ Photo courtesy of BANG Theatricals!

Well-deserving of its all-caps styling, STOMP is an assertive, exuberant, and high-octane experiment. Formed in the early 1990s by dance-percussion duo Steve McNicholas and Luke Cresswell, STOMP finds its roots in the street bands and theater troupes of the Edinburgh Fringe. As adaptable as it is prolific, STOMP’s innovation in the use of everyday objects as instruments and dance accessories has swiftly become an international phenomenon. At this point, not to have heard of STOMP — with its catalog of albums, TV specials, documentaries, global ad campaigns, residencies, and awards reaped across industries — is to have lived under a rock. Fortunately for the few yet to be initiated, who didn’t catch the sensation before it closed on Broadway with an astonishing 11,000 performances under its belt, that rock is lifting.

True to the show’s dynamic and pioneering spirit, STOMP has packed up and hit the road. This spring, STOMP is touring the Northeast replete with an army of brooms, bins, Zippo lighters, and all manner of corrugated pipes — I can only imagine how the tour bus rattles! Directing an all-star cast and combining everything from street music to circus acrobatics, Steve McNicholas and Luke Cresswell bring humor, heart, and whimsy to their enduring spectacle, which plays through April 7 at Capital One Hall in Tysons.

The beauty of STOMP lies not only in its pageantry or athleticism but in the cast that embodies it. The show demands a synergy both choreographed to the second and adaptable upon a moment’s notice. From rhythm to dance to comedic delivery, the synchrony and coordination I witnessed in STOMP are among the most precise I have seen on stage. STOMP’s cast has mastered a rare kind of unity and integrity the likes of which I haven’t seen since studying Anne Bogart’s Viewpoints. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were breathing in sync.

That said, STOMP is performed in vignettes or sequences of percussive dance complete with every combination of players imaginable. There are bombastic group numbers, soulful solos, playful slapstick routines, and clever comedic intervals. Ivan Salazar holds the show in the palm of his hand, simultaneously delivering some of STOMP’s most astounding and vigorous feats of body percussion while entreating its audience to join in on the clapping, the snapping, the eponymous stomping. His energy is boundless and so is the audience’s attention when he takes the spotlight.

Scenes from ‘STOMP.’ Photos courtesy of BANG Theatricals! (bottom © Steve McNicholas).

Fellow rhythm heavyweights Jude Caminos, Micah Cowher, John Gavin, and Declan Hayden are inexhaustible in their drumming, providing the show with a steady backbone while also unafraid of breaking out into bewitching solos. Madeline Jafari, Zahna Johnson, and Jasmine Joyner cast their own spells with a remarkable fusion of studio dance and percussion, leading the charge in STOMP’s unique and effortless movement work. Cary Lamb Jr., Sean Perham, and Cade Slattery are the perfect complements to the ensemble, bringing together everyone’s strengths and evening them out into a tactful and uniform project.

Moreover, STOMP has a certain knack for comedy that uses its distinct visual and musical language to its benefit, transcending boundaries of age, culture, and gender. The show’s fool, as Shakespeare would have it, is its driving force. Jose Filgueira adorns this role with glee, playing him up in equal parts buffoonery, sympathy, and coquetry. As often the butt of the joke as he is in on it, Jose brings a vital and compulsively watchable magnetism to STOMP, forever in a battle of wits with both his cast members and audience (regardless of their raunch or inanity).

As STOMP progresses, its cast moves between instruments like bees through a flower bed, each new item simply a conduit for their infinite energy. From matchboxes to kitchen sinks, Prop Manager Austin Huehn made sure to cause a stir in the audience with every new instrument. A moment particularly effective was the cast’s use of Zippo lighters in a black-out sequence toward the close of the show. In a rare moment of collective silence, we watched the flames flicker between hands, rising, falling, swaying, dying out, and in that silence, we understood each other better, if only for a moment.

Just shy of a trance, we couldn’t help but join in, eager for a piece of the magic on stage. Salazar obliged us, intermittently leading us in a spontaneous call and response, allowing us to weave our own percussive motifs into the fabric of the show, then returning to his irreplicable acrobatics. As instruments flew and rolled and swept across the stage, even gravity was called into question — then further challenged when the cast began scaling the set.

Rigged to chain-link screen at the top of the set were more than a new set of instruments, but an opportunity to highlight the versatile scenic design and playful dressing by Mark Miller and Stacey-Jo Marine, both redolent of HBO’s 1997 Stomp Out Loud film (watched with such awe in that damp music room a lifetime ago). Ultimately, in a feat both vigorous and uplifting, Cresswell and McNicholas’ STOMP proves its cultural resilience and invites fans new and old to experience its legacy live. As this show clanks and bangs its way around the Northeast this spring, I can’t help but urge everyone to follow.

Running Time: One hour and 50 minutes, with no intermission.

STOMP plays through April 7, 2024, presented by BANG Theatricals! (in co-production with Harriet Newman Leve, James D. Stern, Morton Wolkowitz, Schuster/Maxwell, Gallin/Sandler, and Markley/Manocherian) at Capital One Hall, 7750 Capital One Tower Road, Tysons, VA. Purchase tickets ($29–$108) online. For tickets to future Capital One Hall events go here. Check out STOMP‘s North American tour dates here.

Lighting Design by Brain Clagglett; Sound Design by Steve J. Reynolds

Ian Kirkland is a journalist, editor, and storyteller with a keen and discerning eye for performance without bounds. He began writing about the performing arts from the auditoriums of high schools across the Beltway area and has taken his love of theater and the spoken word to the Edinburgh Fringe, London’s VAULT festival, the West End, and, most recently, back home to the DMV.


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