In 1961, the a cappella group the Dovells made the Bristol Stomp popular when they covered the song by that name here in Philly. At dance halls like St. Alice's and Wagner's Ballroom, teens shook the house stomping at Friday-night hops. For the last 20-plus years, the British percussion show STOMP has carried the baton, touring the world with its repurposed street instruments, and thundering in performance spaces like the Merriam Theater, where it's running through Tuesday to equally thundering applause.
STOMP has several touring crews; this one, of eight, is led by the muscular, gum-chewing percussionist John Angeles, whose rhythmic clapping and finger-snapping charms the audience into joining in, so we become part of the joyful noisemaking.
I last saw the show in its early days, and I remember it as more dance-heavy, with some great dancers like Seán Curran on the roster. Curran has long since moved on, and STOMP is a punishing gig, so it's surprising to see Ivan Salazar, who started in the cast in 1995 and is now rehearsal director, still going at it with all the vigor its rigors demand - he finishes one headstand with a jaw-dropping, slow heels-over-head backbend. The cast also includes Andrés Fernandez, whose Afro is almost another performer, and two women, Cammie Griffin and Kris Lee, who add a dose of feminine sarcasm with their mugging.
Creators Luke Creswell and Steve McNicholas allow individual performers to strut their own stuff, which gives each touring group a feeling of spontaneity and keeps things fresh.
Reggie Talley is the comical underdog, not coming in on cue and doing just about the best chicken-legging I've ever seen. There are a couple of terrific tap sequences and some new numbers, one with shopping carts called "Trolley" that I might try myself next time I'm in a supermarket after midnight. Talley, as the cart boy, ends the skit with firecracker finesse.
The paint cans are new, too, and this sequence requires split-second timing as they're sent flying through the air to be caught by other performers.