Well, it’s Valentine’s Day and there I sat in the Mezzanine section of the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, Raleigh, NC, waiting for the Broadway show, “Stomp,” to begin. We started off on the wrong foot because we sat in the wrong seats. Granted our tickets said seats “C6” and “C7″and we were in the right row, but somehow in the wrong section. Unbeknownst to Crystal and me, we were sitting in the “V” section, instead of the “U” section.
Stubborn as we were, we remained in seats “C6” and “C7.” I stood my ground and refused to move, when questioned by my fellow neighbors. Still totally confused, then totally embarrassed, I finally got the message and moved to my proper place. Slowly, my frown turned into a grin when I realized we weren’t the only lost souls, who had to move. It seemed like confusion was in the air that night and I felt so much better because of it. My Grinch-sized grin widened even more, when I realized our seats were closer to the stage. We were now closer to the performance of a lifetime, since I’d never been to a Broadway show before. It was a thrill for me. My teenage daughter thought otherwise, since she loathed being seen with her mom on Valentine’s Day. One thing seemed to make her happy; she got to wear jeans, since the dress code was very relaxed.
The show was supposed to start at 5 p.m., but didn’t start until around 5:15 p.m. Suddenly all the lights went out. There was almost total darkness and each empty seat filled up quick. All talk and body movement became obsolete with total silence. It was so still, you could almost hear a pin drop. My heart was racing.
Hence, we had a couple of guys with industrial-sized brooms in their hands tapping their brooms to a musical rhythm. While, they tapped, a steady flow of dust also moved across the stage with them. But, they didn’t seem to mind, nor did they stop tapping and sweeping back and forth across the stage. They even used pails to put more dust on the floor. Minutes later, a couple more guys come out, then a couple of girls, all with the same exact brooms and tapping and moving their brooms and their bodies in the same exact fashion. And the beat was rather catchy. They even used those dust particles to make their beat more fine-tuned.
This show made me understand how this non-traditional dance troupe used percussion, movement, and visual comedy to wow the audience. A couple of its members even interacted with the audience by getting us to clap on key and as often as instructed by the cast member. Not a word was said among them or to the audience during most of the production. Except when one of the cast members did try to sing a tune but it was very short, since it seemed quite appropriate for that particular scene. Interacting with the audience made us feel more relaxed and more inclined to relate to their show. It felt good and it felt really nice to be a part of something so positive and stimulating. The group also did a scene in total darkness where they lit cigarette lighters in a chain reaction and each flicker had a musical tone to it. And the entire time they performed this scene, it was in total darkness. No spot light. No scroll light. Nothing. Just darkness and those flickering cigarette lighters.
My favorite part of the show was where several of the members sat down directly in front of the audience to read sections of the newspaper. Then each one used their section of the paper to convey sounds of a musical instrument. It was really awesome. And they did this without putting a single hole in it, at least at first. Then one of the members tore the paper and made a hole, where he put his head through it to make a funny. It was so cute. He seemed almost childlike.
I especially liked the comedic timing, where the same guy always got the short end of the stick. He always got the smaller broom, the shorter pipe, or was the only one left without a place to sit. It was sort of like a scene from “The Three Stooges.” Remember, Moe, Larry, and Curly? During the last scene, they used aluminum trash can tops, which were very loud but quite effective, especially if you happened to doze off. They waved the tops wildly like pom poms during a cheering session at a football game or smashed them together like instruments in a high school band.
At the same time, they did back flips, rolls, jumps, dance routines, and more. There was so much energy and there was no intermission. Throughout the entire show, they used brooms; lids; sinks; pipes; trash cans; trash can tops; waste baskets; trash bags; paper bags; inflatable devices; newspapers; pots and pans; and more to create physical theatre that echoed tribal dance. The show lasted about 90 minutes. Even though she hated to admit it, my daughter actually liked the show and even singled out her favorite performer.
Nonetheless, “Stomp” received standing-room only applause, since all members truly put all their heart and soul into each and every performance. Every scene was creative and each task was done masterfully. On a scale of one to 10, I gave it a nine. Why? Because one mistake was spotted during the show and that was when one of the females dropped a pail as they tossed them back and forth among members in frenzy on the stage. That was the only flaw I noticed. To top off a near perfect ending, as everyone rose from their seats to exit “stage left,” a remix of the 1979 song, “Stomp,” by the Brothers Johnson played righteously in the background.