To inaugurate its changeover from the Aladdin, the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino has remodeled its showroom for the open run of “Stomp Out Loud.” While a reported $28 million was spent, this new edition of “Stomp” retains its ragtag character as a collection of fierce performers creating amazing patterns of layered sound using debris and every part of their bodies. Diminishing returns set in after multiple visits, but anyone with a pulse and an appreciation for the human capacity for joyous rhythm should see “Stomp” at least once, and this is as good an opportunity as any.
“Stomp Out Loud” — the title may be understood as a distinguishing feature, rather than an implication that previous editions were quiet or discreet — employs double the usual number of performers, 16 out of an overall company of 24, as well as several new routines involving water, as when shower jets pummel seven Stompers banging trios of oil drums with what look like athletic socks stuffed with billiard balls.
Otherwise the repertoire will be familiar to those who’ve taken in an edition in Gotham (14 years to date) or London (five years and counting) or on the show’s tour worldwide. Those who have never experienced “Stomp” are in for a treat: It’s about as committed, skillful and exciting an aesthetic endeavor as can be found anywhere.
Among the perennial tropes is the appearance of a single figure who begins a sound (using a broom or stick or basketball) that’s picked up by others who repeat, change and expand it, often into a kind of challenge dance and eventually full-stage cacophony. At these times “Stomp” is most like jazz, with the “melody” at work underneath as soloists riff and improvise. (It feels like improvisation, at least, though every moment is minutely choreographed and precise.)
Many of the routines are as much about dance or acrobatics or even martial arts as they are about making sound. Sometimes, the result is full-out music, as when performers hang from the ceiling and smack fencing festooned with old license plates and metal lids to create an infectious salsa beat. At one point all 16 crouch with hollow plastic tubes of different lengths that conjure up different notes when hit against the floor, and an eerie tune not unlike the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” wafts up.
But the most common setup, which could be classified as “What the … ?,” has the Stompers enter with giant boxes, plastic drums or garbage cans, and we ask ourselves, “What the heck are they going to do with those?” The answer is inevitably something intense and well rehearsed, engaging and probably loud.
A few individuals make a distinctive mark. On opening night Cam Newlin, a surprisingly (given his degree of athleticism) portly fellow with a blond goatee, assumed the role traditionally assigned to “Stomp” co-creator Luke Cresswell as the lone sweeper who begins and ends show. Newlin also acted as compere for periodic audience participation that briefly bond aud and performers. (After one particularly horrendous attempt at unison clapping, someone in the first night crowd yelled out, “We can get it!” Newlin gave us a thumbs-up and by God, after another minute, get it we did.)
Troupe also employs a sort of Cantinflas figure, a mischievous sad sack who flirts with the ladies, as well as with his peers’ ire. At the opening, this was diminutive pepper-pot Richard J. Samson, always assigned the smallest box or largest mop to carry but never allowing others’ pranks or scorn to deter his scampering and ecstatic self-expression.
Each performer expresses self, but in the last analysis, “Stomp” works because it’s about community. While each of us has our own characteristic beat, “Stomp” asserts that we can combine it with the rhythms of others to create something collective and magical. It’s no accident that the performers are all dressed in camouflage pants and boots and torn T-shirts; this is a mixed-race, working-class ensemble whose message is that even the downtrodden can trod together with an infectious step.