There’s one thing the cast and crew of “Stomp” say over and over again: “Every show is different.”
We agree. We watched the show twice in less than three weeks—first in London and then in Manila, on their opening night last Tuesday at the CCP Main Theater—and they were very different experiences. Both enjoyable, but different.
The structure of the show and the rhythm and routines may be the same, but there were so many variables: the mix of cast members who had flown in from different parts of the world, some of whom had worked together before and others who had only just met; the audience and their reactions (interestingly, the crowd in Manila got the rhythm a lot faster than the audience in London) and prop breakage (yes, broken brooms and wayward pipes add to the comedy).
Because of the size of the Ambassadors Theatre, the show in London felt a lot more intimate. The show at CCP, which was presented by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions and Concertus Manila, felt bigger, crazier, funnier. Adults and kids giggled throughout the performance, proving that “Stomp” really is universal; it knows no language barriers or generation gaps.
Another big difference? Andres Fernandez, the Filipino Stomper with the big hair.
“It’s a live show, it’s crazy, it’s exciting,” he said.
It’s been over 20 years since Andres has been in the Philippines.
“Most of my mom’s side, our immediate family, are all in Hawaii or Las Vegas,” he said. “Most of my dad’s side are in Masbate and my cousins are here in Manila. I keep in touch with them through Facebook. Three of them are coming tomorrow, one of my good friend’s brothers is coming with his friends and then on Wednesday I have a lot of cousins coming, eight of them, and then on Friday, eight, on Saturday, eight and on Sunday, eight. My dad has 17 brothers and sisters.”
The people on “Stomp” call Andres Pooh or Pooh Bear. “When I first got on tour, my ex-wife loved Winnie the Pooh and I had a Pooh shirt and hat on. They said, ‘Oh, he looks like Pooh.’”
Andres first auditioned for “Stomp” 17 years ago. He and his older brother flew to Los Angeles from Hawaii, where they were based, for a series of auditions that included “The Lion King,” “Starlight Express,” “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
“‘Stomp’ was the last one. There were thousands and thousands of people and the line was crazy. We got to the front and they said we had to go back the next day, but we were supposed to fly home the next day.”
Undeterred by the clash in schedules, Andres and his brother returned the next day.
“They taught us the hands and feet number of the show. I just relaxed, had fun and danced with it. I did a back handspring, I landed on my hand and then I landed on my head. I was myself and I had fun in the audition. When I asked them why they hired me, they said, ‘You made us laugh.’ Okay, cool. Seventeen years later, I’m still making them laugh, I hope.”
Andres made it on the first audition, joining one of “Stomp’s” touring productions in the US.
“My first three cities were Miami, Orlando and Pittsburgh then we went on to Canada and then it was all a blur,” he said.
He was no stranger to performing. Andres, who was born and raised in Hawaii, had been singing with his brothers since he was a kid.
“My kuya, my younger brother and I, we had a boy band when I was 11. We did New Kids On The Block songs and New Edition. We would sing at Barrio Fiestas in Hawaii and we’d tour the Hawaiian islands, opening for Gary Valenciano, singing with Romnick Sarmenta, Martin Nievera. We’ve been performing all our lives.”
But “Stomp” is an entirely different kind of performance. There are no words, no singing. The Stompers use movement, physical comedy and an interesting assortment of everyday objects—shopping carts, lighters, trash cans and more—to produce rhythm and connect with their audience.
Making people laugh
Andres’ first role was Ringo, the guy who tries to make music with trash he pulls out of a garbage bag in the “Bags” routine. In the US, the two roles he swings are the drummer Doctor Who and Mozzie. This week, audiences at the CCP have seen him as Mozzie, the funny guy, and Sarge, the group leader, two roles he really enjoys.
“I love doing the Mozzie role, I love making people laugh. That’s one of my favorites. And Sarge, Sarge is fun because he gets to be in charge, he’s the serious side of the person. I like that role, too.”
“Stomp” co-creator and director Steve McNicholas said Andres is a top-league Stomper. “He’s probably one of only one or two performers in the world who can do every role in the show. He can do everything.”
Andres said, “It’s all music. I guess I can change my mind and do the other parts of the song easier than others. I like being eight different people.”
Steve also singled out Filipino Stompers, saying, during an interview in London: “Pretty much all of them are top-league Stompers. I don’t know what it is about the Philippines. You make great Stompers.”
Andres has been part of “Stomp’s” special projects, including the Dolby Digital trailer which was shown in cinemas all over the world, including the Philippines. He was also part of the Stomp Out litter campaign in San Francisco (“We went through the city, sweeping up the city and then meeting the mayor, that was really cool.”) and performed at then President Bill Clinton’s televised Millennium celebration (“We got to party in the White House after, that was really fun.”).
Stomp has taken Andres all over the US and Canada and to South Africa, Brazil, Spain and Greece. “We performed at the amphitheater in front of the Acropolis, that was my view. So crazy! And now I get to be in Manila!”
Cuts and bruises
The fun hasn’t come without cost. In a show as physically taxing as “Stomp,” injuries are to be expected.
“We get cuts and bruises all the time. I’ve got two herniated discs, my L4-L5, I got that like five years ago. But I’m still Stomping with it. I got three stitches on my face after someone hit me with a pole.”
He says he goes to a Filipino doctor in Vegas for checkups.
Despite doing the show for 17 years now, Andres still manages to keep things fresh. “I bring new things to the table, changing up what we do every day. We don’t do the same thing every night. That’s why ‘Stomp’ has lasted so long, we can do that. We are able to freely experiment and bring things off of the road and try to bring that into the show and play with them onstage and try to make ourselves laugh and, in turn, the audience feels that. It’s fun like that.”
“Stomp” runs at the CCP Main Theater until June 22. For tickets, call 8919999 or visit www.ticketworld.
com.ph. Prices range from P800 to P5,500.