On Stage: Stomp returns to Philly at Kimmel

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times


The musical stage show “Stomp” has been playing to packed houses for almost 30 years and its popularity is showing no signs of waning.

The energetic and highly percussive show is coming back to Philadelphia from December 28-January 2 for an eight-show run at the Merriam Theater (250 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-893-1999, www.kimmelculturalcampus.org) as part of the Kimmel Cultural Campus’s Broadway season.

“Stomp” has been visiting the area for more than two decades.

The stage show “STOMP” has its origins in busking, a British custom that dates back hundreds of years and features street performers. The show’s creators Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas updated the tradition and created a theater piece that is very loud and very intense.

The structure is always there but approximately one-quarter of each performance is improvised. The cast of the national tour has the versatility — and the experience with the structure of the show — to keep it fresh and new for every performance.

“The show is about 75 per cent blocked and scripted,” said Jonathon Elkins, during a phone interview Wednesday morning from his home in  St. Claire Shores, Michigan.

“The other 25 per cent is us. We have the freedom to move however we want.”

Elkins is one of the veterans of the cast on the National Tour.

“I joined “Stomp’ in 2016,” said Elkins. “They did auditions in the spring at the Orpheum Theater in New York City and that’s when I made it. I started touring in mid-October and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Well, almost ever since. There was a pandemic that put the show on an unwelcome “vacation.”

“We lost a year-and-a-half because of COVID,” said Elkins. “We shut down in March 2020 – the same time Broadway was closing. We started back up on August 12 this year.”

Elkins is a Michigan native, who was born and raised in Metro Detroit. Since 2010, he has drummed, marched and instructed within DCI (Drum Corps International) and WGI (Winter Guard International) ensembles throughout Michigan. Elkins has also been a member of both the Detroit Pistons and Detroit Lions drumlines.

“I knew ‘Stomp’ was something I wanted to do ever since I was in high school,” said Elkins. “In 2000, a substitute teacher put on a DVD of ‘Stomp’, and I felt it. I knew I wanted to do something like that.

“I was always in the drum line in high school – and band from sixth grade. I kept going in college. I went to Western Michigan University on the other side of the state.”

Now, Elkins is going to other states as “Stomp” continues to crisscross America.

“Stomp” is not your typical touring stage show.

“Stomp” is a wordless show featuring a 12-member cast with energy to burn — a cast that creates beautiful music and sly humor with found objects such as Zippo lighters, push brooms, wooden poles, hammer handles, garbage cans, inner tubes, matchboxes and even the kitchen sink. It is a journey through sound, a celebration of the everyday and a comic interplay of characters wordlessly communicating through dance and drum.

“Stomp” runs for just over an hour-and-a-half with no intermission. It features non-stop intensity, lot of movement and a whole lot of noise. To get an idea of what’s happening in the show, picture a group of athletic dancers acting like a group of young kids left unsupervised in a kitchen after drinking a 16-ounce glass of Jolt (a soda that pre-dated energy drinks and boasted “all the sugar and twice the caffeine”)

The cast characters are Ringo, Particle Man, Doctor Who, Cornish, Mozzie, Sarge and Potato Head.

“One of my characters – Dr. Who – is wild and energetic,” said Elkins. “Another one – Potato Head – is just drumming focused.

“A nice thing is that we get to pick our own clothes. We get to decide what we wear and how we wear it. All the clothes you see us wearing onstage – we get to pick them.”

“Stomp” is definitely not your typical touring stage show.

Video link for “Stomp” — https://youtu.be/a6X_idq-lyM.

“Stomp” will play the Merriam Theater on December 28 (7:30 p.m.), December 29 (7:30 p.m.), December 30 (2 and 7:30 p.m.), December 31 (2 and 7:30 p.m.), January 1 (1 p.m.) and January 2 (6:30 p.m.).

Ticket prices start at $40.

Gov’t Mule

Gov’t Mule is one of the most revered bands in the jam band scene – and one of the longest-running. The band got its start in the early 1990s and is still going strong.

Gov’t Mule has released more than 20 albums – the most recent of which is “Heavy Load Blues.” The band is also on tour this month with a show scheduled for December 30 at The Met (858 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, http://themetphilly.com).

When the Allman Brothers Band reformed in 1989, Warren Haynes was added as lead guitarist and vocalist, and Allen Woody was brought on to play bass. Haynes, Woody, and drummer Matt Abts, who played with Haynes in Dickey Betts’ band, came together as Gov’t Mule during Allman Brothers breaks. They released their debut album, “Gov’t Mule,” in 1995.

After a while, Haynes and Woody left the Allman Brothers Band to concentrate full-time on Gov’t Mule in 1997.

For more than two decades, the members of Gov’t Mule have satisfied fans with their instrumental virtuosity and willingness to take songs to their extreme.

“Heavy Load Blues,” which was released November 12 on Fantasy Records, is an entirely different story.

Gov’t Mule’s first-ever blues album features a balanced mix of Haynes’ originals and covers including Howlin’ Wolf’s “I Asked Her For Water, She Gave Me Gasoline,” Junior Wells’ “Snatch It Back and Hold It,” and Ann Peebles’ “I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home.”

The chart-topping album debuted at #1 on the Billboard Blues Albums chart, landed on 6 additional charts including the Billboard 200, reached #1 on Amazon’s Best Sellers in Blues, #1 on Music Connect’s Blues Albums chart, #2 on Apple Music’s Blues Albums, and has amassed more than 1.5 million global streams.

“The pandemic, like everybody else, shut us down for a year-and-a-half,” said Haynes, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from his home in West Chester, New York.

“Once we were vaccinated, we got in the studio and recorded two albums. ‘Heavy Load Blue’ was released in November and there will be another Gov’t Mule album released next year.

“It’s the only time in my life that I’ve done two records at the same time. I wouldn’t want to do it again.

“I recorded in two different rooms in the same studio – Power Station New England in Waterford, Connecticut. They have a big main recording room and a smaller studio that has lower ceilings.

“We recorded the regular album in the big room and the blues album in the small room. We’d start out in the big room at 1 p.m. and work until around 9 p.m. Then, we’d go to blues room. We wanted to make the blues album at night.

“We’d set up in the small studio like we were doing blues in a little club – and we recorded live. After recording all day in the big room, we’d just shut our brains off and play blues all night.

“Recording like this is not something I would have thought about under normal circumstances, but it worked out pretty well. After rehearsing in March, we spent six weeks in the studio starting in April.”

Prior to the new release, Gov’t Mule and “the blues” were rarely found in the same conversation.

“A blues album has been on my mind for five or six years,” said Haynes, who has also played with Phil Lesh and Friends and other re-formed Grateful Dead bands.

“I listed songs – covers that I’d like to do. Also, I wrote a lot of songs during the break and some of them were blues. With everything going on, everybody has the blues a little – so it was time.

“The album has seven originals and seven covers. It wasn’t planned that way. It just worked out that way.

“In our live shows right now, we’re playing some songs from the blues album but nothing from the upcoming album. We try to play something from every album. We still play songs from our first three albums a lot.

“Every show is different. We’ll play 100 different songs over the course of the tour.”

Video link for Gov’t Mule – https://youtu.be/d3WbdYLpDdo.

The show at The Met on December 30 will start at

Tickets are $49.50 and $59.50.

A Christmas Carol

Now through January 2, People’s Light (39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, peopleslight.org) is presenting the world premiere of “A Christmas Carol.”

Unfortunately, all live shows have sold out.

Fortunately, you can stream the filmed version of A Christmas Carol, featuring Ian Merrill Peakes as Ebenezer Scrooge, from December 23-January 6 for $25.

This version of “A Christmas Carol” is adapted from Charles Dickens by Zak Berkman and features original music by Zak Berkman.

Callous Scrooge, shackled Marley, and the haunting spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future spring vividly to life in this fresh adaptation of a favorite yuletide ghost story.

Featuring a lively mix of original songs and newly arranged 19th-century English carols, this music-infused retelling captures the magic, joy, and generosity of Dickens’ beloved classic.

Each year, the People’s Light holiday show is a panto that transforms a beloved children’s story into a musical extravaganza filled with outrageous characters, toe-tapping original music, slapstick comedy, and topical humor for both kids and adults.

“A Christmas Carol” is not a panto. But it is music-filled, interactive fun for every age — whether you believe in spirits or not.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will have Little Stranger on December 23 and Snarky Puppy on December 29.

118 North (118 North Wayne Avenue, Wayne, www.118northwayne.com) will present Matthew Fair on December 23 and Steal Your Peach on December 26.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) will host the Genesis Show on December 26.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) presents the Slambovian Circus of Dreams on December 23, Almost Queen on December 26 and 27, Raymond the Amish Comic on December 28 and The Mighty Manatees & Karmic Repair Co. on December 29.

World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com) will host Rev. TJ McGlinchey & Friends: Jim Henson Holiday Tribute on December 23.

City Winery (990 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, citywinery.com/philadelphia) will have Freddie Jackson on December 23 and Stephen Kellogg on December 29.

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