The rhythm is gonna get you — the infectious but heretofore unnoticed rhythms of everyday life at home and on the job, rhythms that are captured and amplified in Stomp. Created and directed by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas and produced by Columbia Artists Management Inc. et al., Stomp transforms common household and workplace objects into percussion instruments. A worldwide musical sensation for the past decade, Stomp will return to Raleigh Memorial Auditorium Oct. 7-12 as a Broadway Series South season special.
In the summer of 1991, Cresswell and McNicholas created Stomp while performing as "buskers" (i.e., street entertainers) on the streets of Brighton, England. Luke Cresswell is a self-taught percussionist and a former member of Pookiesnackenburger, Great Britain's premier busking/cabaret musical group. Steve McNicholas is an actor/musician/writer who has worked with Cliff Hanger Theatre Co., 7:84, Covent Garden Community Theatre, Pookiesnackenburger, and the Flying Pickets.
During its sell-out run at Sadler's Wells in London's West End, Stomp won a 1994 Olivier Award for Best Choreography. Stomp began its current sell-out run Off-Broadway at the Orpheum Theatre in New York City in February 1994. The most financially successful Off-Broadway show in history, Stomp won an Obie Award and a Drama Desk Award for "Most Unique Theatre Experience," plus a Special Citation in Best Plays.
There also is a Boston production of Stomp (running since February 2003), two North American Tours (the Luke Tour and the Steve Tour, running since 1995), and two European troupes. In all, Stomp has played more than 350 cities in 36 countries around the world.
"We make music out of everyday objects," says performer John Sawicki, "stuff that people take for granted in everyday life. There's so much music all around you. After you see the show, you'll realize that there is music all around you. But you are programmed to ignore it. After you see the show, you'll notice it."
In a marvelous mixture of music, movement, dance, and comedy, Stomp employs stiff-bristle brooms, trashcans, trashcan lids, hubcaps, tea chests, plungers, plastic bags, wooden poles, boots, and Zippo lighters as percussion instruments and props in an eye-opening series of rhythmic scenes. Every three weeks, the producers must replace 450 liters of water, 150 vials of ginseng royal jelly, 120 kilos of sand, 84 brooms, 74 power bars, 72 pairs of drumsticks, 50 lids, 36 6-foot 6-inch poles, 48 boxes of matches, 40 blocks of athlete's chalk, 36 50-gallon oil drums, 30 sink plugs, 25 bananas, 10 trashcans, eight tubes of bathroom sealant, and five boxes of ballpoint pens.
Seventy-five or 80 percent of Stomp is choreographed beforehand, notes Sawicki, and 15 to 20 percent is improvised during the performance. A Long Island, NY, native who attended the New School in Manhattan, Sawicki has been performing in Stomp since 1997.
Before Stomp, Sawicki says, "I just played drums and taught drums privately. I had 50 private students that I taught every week." Sawicki performs the role of "Sarge" in v. (Just look for the guy with "a bunch of tattoos and a weird haircut," says Sawicki.)
With Stomp, John Sawicki says, "There's no language barrier. The show is for people of all ages. It's all about rhythm. We all share a basic rhythm, and that's our heartbeat. You have to come see the show."
Besides John Sawicki, the other performers on the Steve Tour include: Harold Kekoa Bayang, Andrés Fernandez, Khalid Freeman, Tonya Kay, Noah Mosgofian, Sophia Sharp, Carlos "Peaches" Thomas, and Elizabeth Vidos.
Sawicki says, "Stomp doesn't get boring. It's always fresh. It's just a really cool thing."
The critics agree. "Stomp is as crisp and exuberant as if it had opened yesterday," writes The New York Times. The San Francisco Chronicle claims, "Stomp has a beat that just won't quit!"
The Los Angeles Times calls Stomp "Electrifying!" and says the percussion extravaganza "triumphs in the infinite variety of the human experience." And The Chicago Tribune salutes Stomp as "A phenomenal show! Bashing, crashing, smashing, swishing, banging and kicking — a joyous invention!"
Broadway Series South presents Stomp Tuesday-Friday, Oct. 7-10, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 11, at 5 and 9 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 12, at 3 and 7 p.m. in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the BTI Center for the Performing Arts, 1 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $19-$45. 919/834-4000 (Ticketmaster) or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/804343. Group Sales: 919/231-4575 or http://www.priorityseating.net/. Broadway Series South: http://www.broadwayseriessouth.com/2003-2004/specials.html#stomp. Stomp: http://www.stomponline.com/.