“Stomp” (Dallas Summer Musical production)

 

            This one is all about the rhythm.  It's hard to imagine being that entertained, with no music other than the beat, no dialogue, no story line, no plot, no narrative whatsoever.  But it's more fascinating and engaging than you imagine possible.

            It begins with one man pushing a broom on the stage.  The sweeping itself makes a sound, and soon there's a cadence.  Then the others come in, also with push brooms:  eight actors in all (six men and two women).  And they begin to make a compelling rhythm with alternating their broom strokes, and then tapping the broom handles on the floor, louder, softer, slower, faster, until you find yourself completely wrapped up in the barest of props.

            Trash can lids.  Sinks and pots and pans.  Paper sacks.  Cellophane bags.  Shopping carts.  Rubber tubing.  A box of wooden matches.  An inner tube.   An altogether incredible variety of ordinary household items, and they all work toward making a beat.  Sometimes the actors use actual drumsticks, but often just their fingers, playing this incredible array of surfaces. 

            But the actors are not just percussionists, they have some cosiderable skill at a certain kind of synchronized choreography:  not exactly what you'd call dancing, in a traditional sense, but it's definitely the body moving to the rhythm.  So interspersed in the broom stick medley is a carefully orchestrated part where the actors make their sticks clack against each other's, all in sync, of course.  They'll also throw basketballs and tin cans to each other, in between the beats, without missing a beat.

            Oh, and believe it or not, there's humor interspersed, as well.  It's all physical humor, like one of the guys feeling left out, like a sad-sack Charlie Chaplin routine.  Yes, there's some mugging for the audience, but it's all in fun.  There's even a bit of audience participation, as a couple of the actors manage to mime their way into getting the audience to clap a couple of times, at certain intervals, and for a few moments there we almost feel like we're part of the production, which is a considerable achievement in a big theater like Fair Park Music Hall.

            It's only a one-week run, so if you're open to a really different kind of entertainment, you have to hurry.  You might even snap your fingers and tap your toes on the way home.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association