Akron native discovers the beat of ‘Stomp’ is universal
If you go
When: Friday through Sunday (times vary)
Where: Palace Theatre, 1615 Euclid Ave., Cleveland
Tickets: $10 to $55 at Ticketmaster outlets
By John Benson
The critically acclaimed percussive hit “Stomp” returns to Cleveland with show veteran, Buckeye native and former University of Akron football player Elec Simon in tow Friday through Sunday at the Palace Theatre. Recently, the Rayland, Ohio-born Elec Simon witnessed the universal power of “Stomp.”
“I just came back from my first tour of South America. The people loved it because they love music and they love percussion,” said Simon, 29, calling from a tour stop in Atlanta. “Argentina you have tango, and in Peru you have Cajon. They love percussion and they appreciate the show so much, it’s not even funny. They’ve never seen anything like that before. They didn’t know that you could make music out of everyday objects. They’re not used to seeing people take trash cans and brooms and their bodies and make beautiful music out of it. We received a standing ovation after every single number. And while we were doing it, they’d stare with awe in their face the whole time.”
Created in the early ’90s out of the United Kingdom and an off-Broadway hit later in the decade, “Stomp” has grown into an international sensation over the past 14 years with performances in more than 350 cities in 36 countries.
Despite its history, the show continues with its off-Broadway production at New York’s Orpheum Theatre, a North American tour and two productions overseas.
In a nutshell, “Stomp” turns everyday objects into what has been described as an amazing musical experience. Whether it’s stiff-bristle brooms becoming a sweeping orchestra, Zippo lighters flipping open and closed to create a fiery fugue, or wooden poles thumping and clacking in a rhythmic explosion, nothing is off-limits in this show. Known in the past for trash cans, plastic bags, plungers, boots and hubcaps, Simon said “Stomp” has reinvented itself yet again.
“Since the last time we were in Cleveland, you’ll see paint cans, where we’re throwing cans all over the place and catching them,” said Simon, who also acts as a motivational speaker talking to at-risk kids and in state prisons. “If you blink, you might miss something. We have a number called ‘Donut’ where we’re playing with big tractor-tire inner tubes wrapped around us like Kodo drumming. We put guireros in the show where they are hanging from the set, and we’re way up high playing the pipes. We also have walkers we play at the end of the show.”
This actually marks Simon’s second time around in “Stomp.” He left the touring production last May to direct “The Wiz” in Canton. Being away from “Stomp” proved positive for the performer considering just how demanding the role can be. However, what Simon soon found out was like the mafia — just when he thought he was out, they pulled him back into the fold.
“The show is a musical sport,” Simon said. “We’re walking with 55-gallon barrels on our leg every single night. We have to please thousands of people every night driving our bodies into the ground. We’re fighting each other with sticks and heavy lids and drumming nonstop. So every now and then, you do need a break. I left and I came back. You know, the show must go on. Once you’re in ‘Stomp,’ it’s like a family. You’re in forever.”