Lifestyle: STOMP Up A Night of Fun

Would you believe me if I said music is made possible by anything? And with anything I mean plastic bags, matchboxes, lighters, brooms, trash bins and (are you kidding me?) a kitchen sink.

It might sound laughable but when this writer caught the premiere of Broadway sensation STOMP last night, even the most ordinary item (say, newspaper) came to life and concocted an upbeat orchestra of rhythmic sound effects. At certain moments of the show, I could hardly resist nodding or clapping along!

main
(Photo Credit: BASE Entertainment Asia)

The show, which has minimal storyline and no dialogue except for occasional grunts, started off with a man engaging in the most ordinary cleaning routine – sweeping the floor. Before long, he was joined by 7 others and they started tapping their brooms to various tempos whilst moving in choreographed steps. Dustpans, kitchen sink filled with pots and pans soon took their turns as instruments but the one that got everyone in the theatre go “Ooh” was a light and sound segment involving lighters. In total darkness, the eight performers stood before the audience and lit up the lighters according to varying tempo and speed. Paired up with the sight of flickering lights in rhythm, it was simple yet beautiful.

Amidst the other spectacular routines where paint tins and basketballs were thrown in the air (particularly the last segment where inflated monster tubes come into play to create a dance of bobbing and pounding drum sets), the comedic segments managed to steal some limelight and my personal favorite was a scene where the talented cast put up a show just by flipping and crushing newspapers. A funny character who decided to take on various impersonations by making costumes out of the papers added on entertainment value and the result was one hilarious skit!

newspaper
(Photo Credit: BASE Entertainment Asia)

Certainly living up to its signature high-octane mix of dance and acrobatics, percussion sounds and continuous comedy, this is STOMP’s second showing in Singapore. The show was a sold-out success during its first visit in 2009. Apart from Singapore, STOMP has staged over 20,000 performances to more than 12 million people in 50 countries over the past 22 years. To keep up with demands, STOMP continuously evolves by adding in new choreography made from ordinary items. This time round, 2 new routines were added and one of which includes a fully laden supermarket trolley!

We figured that a show review wouldn’t be enough so we spoke to 2 members of the Singapore cast on their lives as a STOMP performer. One of them is Serena Morgan who was a dancer before joining the show in 2011 and the other is Phil Batchelor who left his property agent work to realize his dream as a performer.

W&T: Amidst all the fun on stage, we know that being part of STOMP requires loads of hard work. What are some sacrifices/injuries you’ve had to put up a good show?
P.B: Everyone makes their own sacrifices. We are on the road a lot which means we don’t see our friends and family very often. The most common injuries are minor cuts, scrapes bumps and bruises. It is a very physical show so we endeavour to keep ourselves in good shape – we  see a physio-therapist every week. Each performer can wear earplugs on stage but it’s a personal preference. A lot of the cast have custom made ear moulds that block dangerous frequencies that can harm your hearing.
S.M: Some days can be really tiring – there can be long flights on travel days or if people are injured, you could be expected to do more shows than you expect to, but you just have to make sure that you stretch after every show, eat well and get lots of sleep. Ear plugs are highly recommended throughout the whole show. The show is dangerous as well – there are brooms being thrown, paint cans being thrown and these props are not soft so there can be accidents. You have to be careful and mindful of others in the space.

W&T: Which part of the show is most challenging for you?
P.B: The most challenging part for me is the change of audience from week to week. The crowds in each city can be different as we travel to country to country and it’s up to us to make sure we perform accordingly. The theatre is a live performance and so it can take a split second to make a decision to change the shows pace or dynamics. This can be difficult but very rewarding as we try to make every audience have the best experience.
S.M: The whole show is challenging! But I’m going to say the last section when we play on the trash cans because it’s the end of the show and I am so so tired! But its a high energy part so sometimes it can be really challenging to keep up the energy and hold tempos.

bins
(Photo Credit: BASE Entertainment Asia)

W&T: Do you guys stick closely to what you rehearsed or allow spontaneity on stage?
P.B: The show is written in a way to give every performer the opportunity to add their own element to it. Every performer’s character is an extension of their own personality and with 8 people on stage, this makes for a different show every night. There are definitely spontaneous moments that occur because of the audience. We encourage a lot of crowd participation and it is not uncommon for people to be singled out if they are not clapping along in time or if they turn up late! It is all in good humour though and allows for a greater interaction in the performance!

W&T: What advice would you give for someone who’s inspired to join STOMP?
P.B:
Have a good sense of rhythm, a good sense of humour and the willingness to learn. Our auditions are usually open to anyone who wants to give it a go and has registered beforehand through our website. My advice would be: go for it!
S.M:
Just be yourself!

W&T: Phil, prior to STOMP you were doing nothing related to performing, what made you decide to make the career switch? Where’s the best place you’ve toured to so far with the company?
P.B: I have played drums since I was 11 and was always interested in anything percussive, although it was just a hobby of mine. I saw an audition ad on the Stomp website, after being amazed by the live show in London so I put my name down and then one day I was emailed about auditions. After 3 auditions that week and then a 6 week training contract, I was offered a role on the international tour. It was not a difficult career switch – I went from selling houses to entertaining people and travelling the world!
I have many favourite places since touring with Stomp – This will be my second time performing Singapore and I loved it the first time. My other particular favourites have been Tokyo, Barcelona and Cape Town!

STOMP is on from now till June-23 at the Marina Bay Sands Theatre. Tickets can be purchased at www.marinabaysands.com/ticketing, 6688-8826 or in person at the Marina Bay Sands Box Offices or SISTIC. 

Ticketing information as below:

Day/Times Premium A Reserve B Reserve C Reserve D Reserve
Tue – Fri: 7:30pm $150 $130 $105 $85 $65
Sat: 2.00pm & 7.30pmSun: 1:00pm & 5:00pm

For a quick preview of STOMP, click play on the video below!
STOMP Singapore – Back and better than ever!