“Music is all around us, all you have to do is listen.” Stomp drives home that idea with a bang. Literally.
Brooms sweep the floor in chorus, paper bags rustle, fingers snap and trashcan lids clang in this stunning off-Broadway comic-musical performance. Audaciously inventive, Stomp uses the oddest instruments to create percussion – from water-laden washbasins slung around performers’ necks to stuff pulled out of a garbage bag.
The two hour show runs without intermission. It is split into segments, thoughtfully planned so that quieter portions give respite after high-decibel ones. (It can get extremely loud!)
Stories within Stomp build up with humor and unpredictability. When a pipe pokes its way onto stage, we share the performer’s perplexity as he makes unsuccessful attempts to create music out of it. Until the rest of the gang walks in and relieves him (and us) of the suspense.
Stomp also takes a tongue-in-cheek look at group dynamics. Each performer has a strong personality (and it is to the show’s credit that we sense this clearly without a shred of dialogue). The lady who does wonders with the matchbox has a ‘See I can do this, can you?’ look about her, the guy who leads the clapping seldom shows emotion, the tallest is super-energetic and the little one bored and suspicious and (supposedly) not very musical.
Drama ensues when dissimilar people interact, collaborate or clash. There is a recurring pattern of individual versus collective accomplishments – many segments start with one person on stage and evolve as more join in: that is when stray sounds begin to sound like music. There is also an amusing game of one-upmanship going on. In the funniest sequence of the show, the rest of the group tease the “unmusical” one, using newspapers. (Except that the newspaper isn’t just newspaper. It is a monster one moment, a superhero’s cape or a hairbrush the next.)
Horizontal and vertical space merge seamlessly on stage, as performers move, swing and clamber up&down ladders with amazing speed and synchronization.
Stomp is a jolt to the senses. It leaves you awed by the power of music and the talent of its cast, but more than anything else it stretches your idea of possibilities. It wakes up in you a keener awareness of beauty in ordinary sounds and sights, which stays long after the show is over.
 I watched Stomp at the Orpheum Theater New York on Apr 28th 2010. According to Stomp’s official site, the performers rotate and the show gives them room to express their individuality, so two shows may not be identical.
 Have you heard the Hindi song ‘Sunne wale sun lete hain kan-kan mein sangeet’ (approximate translation: for one with the ear for it, music is everywhere) from the film Saaz (which means Melody/Harmony)? Stomp reminded me of this song’s lines several times. (I wanted to embed/link its video but cannot find it online. Not a very popular song, alas. It’s an interesting composition by Zakir Hussain, written by Javed Akhtar.)