At first thought, the idea behind “Stomp” shouldn’t work. A performance centered solely around percussion using homemade instruments, cleaning supplies and trash shouldn’t be able to hold anyone’s attention for an hour and 45 minutes. There’s no way this shouldn’t feel monotonous after the novelty of the show wears off.
But “Stomp,” which is in town for a short run at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ Buell Theater, is anything but tedious. Even without a single piece of dialogue or a cohesive plot, “Stomp” is a captivating performance that is as unique of an experience as one can have in modern theater.
The show is part Gregory Hines, part John Bonham and part Tom and Jerry cartoon.
The show revolves around individual set pieces that flow seamlessly between one another. A cacophony of sound produced by the entire eight-person cast using push brooms is followed by several performers using only matchboxes and their feet to compose an entirely different experience. A song created by four sinks full of water and dishes somehow fits into the same show as one created using only plastic bags, an empty soda fountain cup and a clicker.
The novelty of seeing random items turned into musical instruments by the talented percussionist in this cast never wears thin and instead keeps the audience completely mesmerized.
And even without the aid of spoken word, each actor has created a character with an identity that shines through and infuses much of the performance with a humor that generates genuine laughs. The oafish buffoon, the put upon nerd and the confident leader all exist in a world where only a few shouts and rhythmic coughs can be used to define personalities.
All of those elements help to create a show that refuses to let its audience’s attention drift. There are times when it was impossible not to utter “damn” under one’s breath at what’s one stage, like watching one of the performers vigorously use two broomsticks to bang on the floor while simultaneously tap dancing at a pace that would make Savion Glover stand back in awe.
But at its core, and the reason “Stomp” has been performed around the world since its debut in 1991, is it taps into the universality of percussion. The show is infused with rhythms and styles of drumming that draw from across the globe. Indian stick dancing is combined with the rhythms of American drumline beats and shares the stage with the bombastic large drums of the Japanese style of taiko.
At a primordial level, everyone is connected to percussion. It is the driving beat of our heart that exists in each of us and powers our entire being. It is the first sound we learn how to make as a child. It is the nervous tapping of one’s foot while waiting at the doctor’s office. It is the drumming on the steering wheel while bored and stuck in traffic.
We may all be connected to the beat but it takes a group of masters to show what is truly possible with the rhythm we all possess.
4.5 stars out of five
at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Buell Theater. Playing now through Feb. 18. 7:30 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Sat. and Sun.
Tickets start at $24. For more information, visit: ow.ly/5Ewz30ip6qq