Review: ‘Pandemonium’


The creators of worldwide phenomenon "Stomp" have taken a load off their feet in coming up with "Pandemonium."

The creators of worldwide phenomenon “Stomp” have taken a load off their feet in coming up with “Pandemonium.” Instead of pounding the floor in work boots, Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas’ troupe of 25 (plus local choir at the finale) creates its unique sound through an array of flotsam and jetsam junk reconfigured for music-making. The decibel and energy levels are every bit as high, though the limited visual interest and repetitiveness may underwhelm those already familiar with the “Stomp” formula.

Various devices deliver the vaguely New Age-y, world music-tinged program. You’ve got your classic makeshift sound machines, like blowing into a bottle or running fingers around a wine glass’s rim. Then there’s the found-object alchemy of drumming on cello cases or steamer trunks, or adding sand to Arrowhead water containers for instant marimbas.

Bowed saws creating a samisen-flavored string section offer delight in a Japanese woodcutter number.

More elaborate still are what one might call the “avatar instruments” — plastic cones and tubing turned into trumpets, or the sax-simulating “squonkaphones.” “Pandemonium” boasts these innovative substitutes proudly, though their appeal lessens the more often they appear.

The company endeavors to bring patented “Stomp” showmanship to the two-hour concert, with mixed results. Any joyous, proscenium-busting anarchy is necessarily reined in by the instruments, and much of the staging — the identical reappearances of a six-person trumpet corps, for instance — is pedestrian.

When the aural and kinetic qualities mesh, as in a Nino Rota-influenced circus turn fetchingly titled “Dead Clown,” the effect is magical. But the effort to create theater out of musical “Pandemonium” too often seems forced.

Cresswell and McNicholas may want to reconsider their not incorporating any familiar standards. The experiment could truly be tested if, instead of a repertoire completely tailored to the odd instrumentation, we experienced a new way of hearing “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” or “Rhapsody in Blue.” Holiday classics would sound particularly delightful — different, anyway — essayed on plastic tubing and refurbished traffic cones.


UCLA Royce Hall, Los Angeles; 1,200 seats, $60 top


A Yes/No Productions presentation, in association with Theater Management Associates and Glynis Henderson Prods., of a show in two acts created and directed by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas. Conducted by Cresswell.


Lighting, Paul Emery; sound and instrument design, Mike Roberts; stage manager, Ben Delfont. Opened, reviewed Nov. 17, 2010. Runs through Nov. 18. Running time: 1 HOUR, 50 MIN.


With: Thomas Arnold, Andres Bertomeu, Gemma Buckenham, Rory Cameron, Simone Clarke, Sean Davis, Steven Dean Davis, Ivan Delaforce, Richard Giddens, Charlotte Glasson, Paul Gunter, Robert Heasman, Peter Huntington, Lorraine LeBlanc, Aidan McConville, Fraser Morrison, Alex Paul, Nick Pynn, RJ Samson, John Sawicki, Gian Sessarego, Felix Vandersluis, Tim Wade, Robin Waterson, Stephen Wrigley.

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