Yes, Theater Dogs is on the road. We’re in Las Vegas for the opening of Jersey Boys, one of our favorite shows.
So we decided to come a few days early, drink in the wonders of the Palazzo (the hotel where JB is housed and a sister hotel to the Venetian). Gorgeous suite rooms. Ours has a view of Steve Wynn’s golf course next door (and of the Las Vegas Monorail, which can’t help but remind me of Disneyland — oh, if only Disney were in charge of Vegas!).
So last night we ambled down the Strip to the Planet Hollywood hotel to see Stomp Out Loud. Now I had seen Stomp multiple times when it ran and ran at San Francisco’s Marines Memorial Theatre. I even got to rehearse with one of the casts and learn a couple of the routines (involving brooms, barrels, garbage can lids and swinging from the junk walls).
The Vegas version of Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas’ enduring hit is, as you might expect, bigger and better than your average Stomp. Yes, they’ve got all the requisite elements: the broom symphony, the feet attached to metal drums, the unbelievable energy. But everything is now amped up a few notches — not crazily, mind you, but enough to compete with the Cirques and the ’70s superstars (Bette Midler is off this week and Cher doesn’t start til next week, and who knows what Elton John is up to — is Las Vegas where the ’70s go to die?).
The cast is still the most diverse you’re likely to see — diverse in sex, ethnicity, body type — and that defining Stomp-ness, that rhythm is an undeniable part of our humanity and that if you bang on anything artfully enough, it turns into music.
The star of the show, at least the night we saw it, is Cam Newlin, a hefty Iowa native and graduate of my two favorite schools: Reno High School and the University of Nevada, Reno, and he’s a marvel, a walking percussive genius who makes music in everything he does. He gets comic support from Leilani Dibble and a cast that translates their musical and dance ability into an irresistible fusion of high-energy fun. This is spectacle without fuss. It’s real, it’s elemental and it’s got a beat that simply can’t be beat.
In Vegas terms, it’s a nice antidote to the “high art” of all the Cirque du Soleil shows, where there’s a huge space between performer and audience (artistically and physically). Stomp Out Loud is down and dirty, rhythmic in all the right ways and funny without pandering. Can’t ask for more than that in a city of such excess.
For information about Stomp Out Loud in Las Vegas, visit the official site here.