STOMP is a hell of a kick.  It's the Oltatunji of the Ashcans.  The Kodo Drumming of the Alleyways.  It is offbeat, imaginative, relentlessly unique in its working-class creativity, and, at its best, downright inspirational.

Gotta admit---it starts slow.  You have to adjust to a set cobbled together from trashcans and hubcaps, discard signs and scrap metal.  There's no orchestra and no lyrics.  Marcel Marceau would get mugged in this neighborhood.

Festivities open with a guy pushing a broom.  Soon there's a chorus line of broomsters, somehow making it all musical.  And from there it goes...

Other "instruments" range from paperbags and daily newspapers to bottleopeners and kitchen utensils, from actual basketballs to apparently random trash.

Slowly, the cast establishes their characters.  The sad sack.  The macho muscle man.  The Earth Mother.  The firefly.

They're all young and profoundly athletic.  They play a very good game of fast-break  run-and-shoot.  Not much defense.  The pace quickens.  The stunts grow more demanding.  The music gets better.  The jumps and turns get more impressive.  

But they remain remarkably "in synch."   No corporate pop automatons could run with this STOMP crew for a single overtime.

Which is when things really get good.  There is humor and acrobatics and increasingly frantic music as the show goes on.  I, for one, could have also stood for a little more character development, a more thoroughly developed plot line or two, even an occasional lyric.  It's a long time to carry on with a wordless rhythm fest banking solely on off-beat creativity and stunning athleticism. 

But that's obviously part of the magic.  Somehow, without the amenities, it all works.  As the crescendo builds the slow lead-up begins to pay off.  The gags, the percussion lines, the beat...they become irresistable...and ultimately well worth the price of admission.

In this day and age it's a daring leap to stage a high-ticket low-tech show like this.  American audiences love their smoke and mirrors, computerized glitz and high-tech hype.  This show is about the ecstasy of pure guts and grit.  A few mis-steps and the whole thing comes apart.

But on opening night here at the Palace, they made none, they pulled it off.  I suspect things will get even better as the company gets comfortable with the venue and the central Ohio audience. 

STOMP is, after all, highly interactive.  It depends for much of its energy on the folks in the audience coming in on cue.  And that, in turn, depends on a cast strong and daring enough to us want to jump in. 

That STOMP could pull all that off is testimony to a brilliantly unique script and a tight team of exuberant performers with what it takes. 

So much of the joy comes with knowing that it's still possible to construct a beautiful, compelling piece of art from trash and guts, youth and daring. 

STOMP indeed!