Inventive Percussion 🎶 “Stomp” @ VPAC

Stomp (VPAC)userpic=drumcorpsRemember when you were a little kid, and you would make a percussion instrument from anything you could get your hands on. A bucket. A broom. A pipe. An old newspaper. A stick. A pot. A trashcan.

That’s what we saw this afternoon.

Only amp up the quality 1000-fold. Add professional dance. Add wonderful invention. Mix, and you come up with the indescribable percussion extravaganza that is Stomp (FB), which we saw this afternoon at the Valley Performing Arts Center at CSUN (VPAC) (FB). Here’s how VPAC described the show:

STOMP is explosive, inventive, provocative, witty, and utterly unique—an unforgettable experience for audiences of all ages. The eight-member troupe uses everything but conventional percussion instruments – matchboxes, wooden poles, brooms, garbage cans, Zippo lighters, hubcaps – to fill the stage with magnificent rhythms.

I can say it was that, and more. Starting from a sequence where they are sweeping the stage and turn the pushbrooms into percussive instruments, to the last encore where they are doing a clapping number with the audience, this was an inventive exploration of making music from everyday objects — and yes, they did even throw in the kitchen sink. Of course, there were the plastic barrels and garbage pails. There were the paint cans and sticks. But there was also lighters, tubing, plastic bags, highway signs… you name it. It really was indescribable.

But there was also humor — of a type that all found funny, and that didn’t draw its humor from sex or sexual stereotypes (unlike last night). In Stomp, one tall drummer with a red hat (Charley Ruane (FB)) was the perennial odd-man out, and played it to the hilt. His was situational humor, it was reactive humor, it was facial and mime humor. Hell, it was just funny.

In a troupe like this, it is hard to single out performers to name. I only know Charlie because he came out for a meet and greet after the show, and I asked him. So here are the remarkable Stomp performers: John Angeles (FB), Leilani Dibble (FB), Dustin Elsea (FB), Eric Fay (FB), Delaunce Jackson (FB), Kris Lee (FB), Guido Mandozzi (FB), Jeremy Price, Krystal Renee (FB), the aforementioned Charley Ruane (FB), Ivan Salazar (FB), and Simeon Weedall (FB).

The program does not give production bios other than Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, the directors. who happened to create the show. However, digging a bit deeper, I uncovered some useful ones. It looks like the set was designed by Yes/No Productions Ltd; and dressed by Stacey-Jo Marine. The set design was quite clever, with percussive points everywhere that were exploited by the Stomp crew. Lighting direction was by Felicia Hall. I’d like to single her out for some special attention: there were points where there were unique dancing shadows cast, which I thought were really neat. Sound design was by Drew Roberts. Although there were no spoken words, sound was important here, because stage microphones had to be set up to capture the percussive sounds from the floor, which were very soft. Roberts engineered that right so that all could hear. Other significant production credits (not including the long list of producers): Ronald Grimshaw (Production Manager); Julie Shelton (Props), DeAnn L. Boise (Company Manager).

Stomp had two shows at VPAC; the second should just be finishing as I write this up. After Los Angeles, the tour continues on to Seattle, Montana, Idaho, and loads and loads of places. If you like percussion, it is worth seeing. It isn’t your typical book musical, but it isn’t quite a concert either. It really is a unique experience.

* 🎭 🎭 🎭 *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I subscribe at two theatres:  The Colony Theatre (FB), and Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). In 2015, my intimate theatre subscription was at REP East (FB), although they are reorganizing and (per the birides) will not start 2016 shows until August. I may move the subscription to The Group Rep (FB), or I may just get individual tickets there through Goldstar. Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: Next weekend brings “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on January 30. February starts on Saturday, February 6 with Empire: The Musical at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB) — this gives us not only the chance to see a dear friend (Sheri F.) who doesn’t attend as much LA theatre as she used to, but a favorite performer (Kevin Earley). The next day brings “An Act of God” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). There’s a rare mid-week performance on February 9 of The Jason Moran Fats Waller Dance Party at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The following weekend brings the Southern California premiere of the musical Dogfight at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim Hills.  The third weekend in February is currently open, but that is likely to change. February closes with The Band of the Royal Marines and the Pipes, Drums, and Highland Dancers of the Scots Guards at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). March starts with “Man Covets Bird” at the 24th Street Theatre (FB) on March 6 (the day after the MRJ Man of the Year dinner) The second weekend of March brings “Another Roll of the Dice” at The Colony Theatre (FB). The third weekend of March takes us back to the Pasadena Playhouse (FB) to see Harvey Fierstein’s Casa Valentina.  The last weekend of March is being held for “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) (pending Hottix).  April will start with Lea Salonga at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) on April 1 and an Elaine Boosler concert at Temple Ahavat Shalom on April 2. It will also bring the Turtle Quintet at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB), “Children of Eden” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) , and our annual visit to the Renaissance Faire (Southern). As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.