"STOMP" whomped onto the stage at Heinz Hall Tuesday night with eight drummers/dancers whamming and whipping push brooms so hard that pieces were breaking off and replacement brooms had to be tossed in from the wings.
Briefly, I wondered how musical it would sound if a chunk of broom hit me upside the head.
A bit later, I sneezed, three times and violently, I believe from the dust the troupe was raising up there. But then I settled into my seat, feet tapping and hands clapping, throughout an hour and 40 minutes of beautiful flying bodies and rhythmic, joyful noise.
Decades after it debuted in the United Kingdom (1991) and went on to wow audiences around the world, "STOMP" no longer surprises with its continued premise, which co-creator Steve McNicholas sums up as "to create rhythmic music with instantly recognizable objects, and do it with an eccentric sense of character and humor."
If you've experienced it, you'll know most of the routines, in which the nonspeaking performers inflict percussions on everything from plastic and metal trash cans and lids to newspapers, from paper and plastic bags on and in their hands to oil barrels booted to their feet, and pull off some funny gags.
Having watched parts of the 2008 "Stomp Live" DVD dozens of times -- my now 5-year-old, drum-lesson-taking son absolutely LOVES it -- I was surprised at how much of the show's set and pieces are the same.
But that didn't dampen my family's enjoyment.
The routines are not only much better live, but some have been improved, such as the Zippo lighter line that adds the enthralling element of flames to the aural and visual beats.
And the loser clown character was as lovable as ever, bringing down this house when he waved a Terrible Towel.
The recently reworked "STOMP" does include two new pieces: a thrilling one in which the performers go all Cirque du Soleil with flying paint cans, and another where some of them beat on tractor-tire inner tubes elastically suspended around their waists in a way that transforms them into curious Boompa-Loompas.
It's all so loud and so visceral and so much fun that the audience -- at this opening show a good mix of adults and children -- can hardly wait to clap responses to the performers' clapped calls for them.
(My wife and I could see my son wanting to go up onstage and bash away on stuff, too.)
With the trash-can crescendo of the grand finale still ringing in our sinuses, and the dust finally allowed to start settling, most of the audience sprang into a standing ovation, giving it, just as loudly if with less grit, right back.theater
Bob Batz Jr.: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1930.