Dancers and percussionists can both study their craft in school, but there’s no school for the unusual blend of those disciplines on display in the long-running stage show “STOMP.” Nonetheless, “STOMP” touring cast member Cade Slattery had a head start when it came to joining “STOMP.”
Slattery will appear in “STOMP” when the show’s national tour hits the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday. The show, which originated in the U.K. in 1991, features performers using household items including brooms, buckets and garbage cans to create a high-energy physical and musical spectacle.
As a child in El Cajon, California, Slattery absorbed that unique performance style directly from the source. His percussion teacher, Chris Rubio, was a “STOMP” cast member whose teachings were heavily inspired by the show’s style. Slattery, now 20, recalls seeing Rubio in “STOMP” for the first time at age seven.
“It was cool seeing someone that I knew up on the big stage, seeing the dream unfold,” Slattery says. “It was like, ‘Wait, that’s something I can do too.’ ”
For the past 10 years Slattery has also been involved with Junior Crew, a Rubio-founded, “STOMP”-like youth percussion group that gives anti-drug performances in San Diego-area schools. Slattery asserts that he’s always been “horrible” at dancing and didn’t have an innate sense of rhythm as a child, but he loved percussion and performance nonetheless.
“Maybe it was just the whole idea of making loud noises and getting away with it, just banging on stuff, like, ‘Wait, I can do this and not get in trouble?’ ” he says.
Slattery’s friendship with Rubio has lasted into adulthood, and it probably rendered Slattery better prepared than most for his “STOMP” audition in 2015. But the daylong audition process still brought a barrage of unusual challenges.
“You just go through different levels of them testing you with different props,” he says. “We’d have brooms and then we’d do some body percussion. Then they give you these big hammer handles and tell you to go hit on these big blue drums on the stage.”
After weeks of training, Slattery hit the road with “STOMP” in late 2015. He says the biggest surprise since joining the show has been the sense of spontaneity and fun among the cast. Much of the show consists of pre-written musical numbers, but Slattery estimates that 25 percent of what happens onstage is pure improvisation — sometimes leading performers to crack up at each other’s antics.
“It’s genuine and it’s not cheesy in any way,” he says.
Slattery says that sense of humor also seems to be the most surprising element of the show for first-time “STOMP” audience members. While marketing for the show emphasizes awe-inspiring moments, the lighter bits pack a different kind of wallop.
“We make a number out of Zippos and Bic lighters and little tiny black pipes that make a melodic tune,” Slattery says. “There are little subtleties that people don’t expect and they find themselves bending over laughing in their seats.”
But according to Slattery, the most crucial element to the show’s incredibly long-lived success is its sense of do-it-yourself accessibility.
“The instruments that you see in the show aren’t bought from Guitar Center and don’t cost $1,000,” he says. “They’re something you can find on the street or in your own kitchen. That’s what makes it universal.”
Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.
8 p.m. Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday
Macomb Center for the Performing Arts
44575 Garfield, Clinton Township