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Special effects seem to be at a the crux of human entertainment these days, doesn’t it? Every episode of almost every studio made episodic drama, situation comedy and major motion picture is loaded with some flavor of special effects. Even shows like, “Big Bang Theory” or “How I Met Your Mother” have increased their effects budget with effects of dream sequences, stunts or layered images to help draw in the audience.
Pop-culture does not seem to have room for TV shows, movies or even plays that have to completely depend on the integrity and talent of the performers.
This was evident as I walked into the Carol Marsoni Hall of the Straz Center for the opening night performance of STOMP last night.
The house was littered with empty seats. The mezzanine and balcony were completely empty.
All I can say is to the lovers of music and theatre that decided to skip out on this performance, it is your loss. The simplistic cohesiveness of this ensemble show is something that does not come around all that often.
STOMP is a percussive music, comedy and movement performance that is matched by nothing I have ever seen. This group of seven performers make music without the use of musical instruments as we would define them. They basically use junk you may find in a dumpster in New York City. Garbage can lids, plastic tubs, match boxes, zippo lighters, are just a few of the items these talented performers use to make a beat come alive in a way that I was not only riveted, but I couldn’t help but want to move my feet with the beat.
The use of the artifacts along with their feet and the movement was visually stimulating as well. Within the first few numbers, all I could think of, was this group is making music with everything except the kitchen sink, and of course in the very next number four of the performers came out with kitchen sinks strapped to their torsos. Water in the sinks plus, cups and utensils seemed to come alive as the ensemble mixed their sounds together in one cohesive unit.
There is no special effects, no extra special lighting, no words, no special costumes just the performers and their props. Simple entertainment at it’s finest and extremely riveting.
Percussion was not the only thing used for entertainment. There was many parts of each number where comedy was used to infiltrate the performance with the laughter of the audience. Comedy alone is not easy, but comedy without one audible word for the entire show is extremely difficult and this group pulled it off with precision and ease.
This was one of the most entertaining ninety minutes I have had in a long time. What made it even more fun was the ensemble incorporated the audience within the show. Patterns of clapping, foot stomping, and finger snapping made for an interactive experience that just compounded on the immense fun this show had to offer.
In simple terms, STOMP was outstanding and I highly recommend everyone take the opportunity to go see it.
STOMP is playing at the Straz Center of the Performing Arts April 30 – May 3. Please visit the Straz Center website for more information.
It seems that I cannot turn on a radio, browse the internet or watch the news without hearing a story about a celebrity scandal. It doesn’t matter if it’s a movie star, pop star, hotel heiress or a political figure, for some reason when a person gains that much fame, they feel invincible.
It seems like these situations have been occurring forever, doesn’t it?
Jersey Boys, at the Straz Center in Tampa, Florida, told the history of the famous Four Seasons pop group and all of the so-called “situations” they were in. Frankie Valli, Nick DeVito and the founder, Tommy DeVito. were four stereotypical New Jersey kids that wanted a way out. As juveniles and young adults Tommy and Nick were in and out of trouble with the law, until Tommy decided to start a group that took different
The play brilliantly portrays the history of The Four Seasons in four parts, with each part
narrated by a different member of the band and supposedly reflecting that band member’s perspective on the band’s history. Most of the big hits of the group are sung either in episodic situations or portraying the band on stage either in concert or on television.
A huge surprise to me, was when I opened the program and found the roll of Frankie Valli is portrayed by Hayden Milanes. Hayden and I performed together in a couple of different shows in another life. Without any bias, Hayden’s performance was nothing short of amazing. The song “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, made Frankie Valli’s extraordinary range famous and Hayden seemed to recreate it with ease. Personally, I think the amazing richness in his vocal quality followed with his research of the character honored Mr. Valli to the extreme.
What was even more amazing is Hayden’s talent was only matched by the other members of the ensemble. Nicolas Dromard portrayed Tommy DeVito with the crassness and overpowering attitude of a bully, and sang the harmonies with excellence.
Adam Zelasko portrayed Nick with the quiet determination of the performer that took the back seat a lot of the time, but always tried to help his brother keep it together. Adam’s voice was powerful and played homage to Nick and the rest of the group with perfection.
The biggest corner was turned when the group was joined by Bob Guido, played by Quinn VanAntwerp. I am not a fan of giving extra praise to one actor or another, especially in a show that is ensemble driven, but as amazing as the other members of the group were, Quinn’s acting ability gave him a stage presence that just could not be matched. His singing had this subtle quality, that foreshadowed his actions in the coming scenes. Quinn was nothing short of brilliant which is saying something because all of the actors on stage were amazing.
Another character worth noting was Bob Crewe, the producer that put and kept the Four Seasons working and famous. Barry Anderson’s gifted portrayal of Bob was nothing short of fantastic. Even as a featured actor, he had a command of the stage that allowed him to stand out in the scenes that he was in.
The rest of the actors completed the ensemble with perfection. A few of the actors had multiple roles, and were played with such finesse that it was not apparent unless you read the program.
With all the well deserved accolades I have given Jersey Boys, I did notice a few problems from my orchestra seat. The balance of the microphones seem to be off when transitioning from singing to dialogue as there were several points where it was hard to hear.
The direction while good, had some unusual placement of the actors. There were times when I really needed to see what the actor was feeling, but their back was to the audience. Every novice director is taught to position the actors to face front as much as possible, but in the professional arena, those rules are thrown out the window in order to make room for new visions, art and realism. Unfortunately, there were a few moments where if this rule would have been applied it would have made for even stronger moments within the show.
Lastly, one of the designs I absolutely loved about the show were the sets. They were simple, and clean which allowed for the acting and singing to take center stage without focus going to some special effects. The sets were so simple the actors were even tasked with bringing furniture and props on and off the stage. I haven’t such simplicity since “Spring Awakening”. It added to the charm of the show.
All-in-all, this show is worth seeing. So many times national tours come through Tampa and just look tired. This show is incredibly energized and fun to watch.