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Performance Sun Apr 25 2010

STOMPING in Chicago


Photo courtesy of: Steve McNicholas

If you thought brooms were only used for sweeping, think again. Donisha Brown, Co-Rehearsal Director and performer in STOMP, tells how this common household item is used as an instrument in an electrifying performance that will sweep audience members off their feet.

Typically, when one hears the word "stomp," hard or heavy footwork immediately comes to mind; but of course, STOMP is a lot more than that.

Yes it is. The premise of the show is that we take everyday objects and turn them into musical instruments. "Stomp" obviously derives from footwork, but for us, it means anything you can take and change the dynamic of. We play brooms, trash cans, and matchboxes--basically, any item you have in your house, we turn it into a musical instrument.

Speaking of "items," I see that water will also be used as part of the performance--how is it used as an instrument?

Water can change the tone of an instrument; for instance, if you play a cup that's full of water, it changes the tone of it once it's released from that cup. You really can get a lot of different sounds out of water.

What goes into choosing the "everyday items" that are used in the performance?

Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, the show's co-creators, choose the instruments we use. What is so great right now is that they are directing IMAX movies, and they've been going all around the world viewing other cultures and instruments that often get translated into our show. In one of the new numbers, we wear inflatable tubes that we like to call "donuts." They are similar to rafting tubes and are played like taiko drums, which is the Japanese drumming style. Their experiences are great for us because they soak up other cultures and forms of music that get put into our show.

Because of its intensely rhythmic style, would STOMP be considered a percussive performance?

Yes, I would consider it a percussive music show. It definitely has a lot of movement, which makes people assume we're dancers, but there is also a ton of comedy and a lot of melody. People who don't know us or who have only seen us play the trash cans will assume the show is all about banging on stuff, but it is also an extremely musical show.

What kinds of performers make up the cast?
We are a mixture of musicians, dancers, and actors; also, there are those who fit into multiple categories. I was a dancer and actor when I joined the show, then I later learned the percussive aspects. There are also people who come in as musicians only who had to learn how to move.

Chicago has what is known as "The Bucket Boys," who use regular mop or paint buckets as drums. Is that something that would be appropriate for STOMP?

One of our members is a phenomenal bucket drummer, and bucket drumming is absolutely part of the STOMP culture. Again, it is taking something that is used one way, but turning it into a musical instrument. It is definitely a part of our culture and something we fully promote, so those guys should keep doing it and have a great time entertaining people.

STOMP began in the UK, but eventually found its way to the States and other countries--how would you explain its worldwide appeal?

There are two ways to describe it: First, it is how we take ordinary things and make them extraordinary. I think it touches people to see something mundane that might have been used earlier in their day be transformed into a musical instrument. We don't come in with pyrotechnics or illusions or anything like that; our show is sort of "what you see is what you get." The show is witty, fun, and kind of extraordinary as to how you can repurpose something like that. The second reason is that music, rhythm, and percussion speak to every single culture, and every culture has some sort or percussive element to it. The show transcends all those things, and I think that's why we've been around so long. Also, I think it's one of the reasons we can travel to so many countries, get great responses, and get asked to come back. We simply use music as a language and I think everybody can understand that particular language.

Music is definitely something that can, no matter what your ethnic background is, really unite people.

It definitely unites us and it has obviously been able to break down tons of barriers between people. STOMP just breaks it down even further--down to that pulse--to that heartbeat that we all have.

What do you hope the audience takes away from STOMP?

I always hope audiences see and hear the world differently all around them. I also want them to come ready to have a great time, leave all the stress behind for at least an hour and forty-five minutes, and leave smiling and energized. Not only is the show good for a "date night" or a girls' or guys' night out, it's also one that you can bring your entire family to, and it's really a good way to unite everyone. And maybe even during the car ride back home, the family can talk about the show and play rhythms with each other. We just want everybody to have a great time, clap and move with us, and leave out a little bit happier.

The show really sounds like it will be an energetic and electrifying performance--thank you for bringing it back to Chicago.

We are so excited [to come back to Chicago] because we haven't been in a while. I moved around a lot as a kid, but I lived off and on in Chicago suburbs. I am ecstatic to play in Chicago because I've never gotten to play there before.

Catch STOMP at the Bank of LaSalle Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St., Tuesday, April 27 to Sunday, May 2. Ticket prices and show times vary; also, two shows will be performed on Saturday and Sunday. For more information, visit,, or call 800-775-2000. Groups of 15 or more should call 312-977-1710.

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