Seven years ago I wrote a cranky review of Stomp, criticizing the show for hypocrisy: despite its message that wage slaves can triumph over menial work through imagination, by then it had itself become an international corporate franchise whose hired-hand performers kept cranking out the showbiz equivalent of Big Macs. Today I'm wondering why I had such a bug up my butt. True, Stomp is big business, but it also offers a reasonable return on your entertainment dollar. The eight cast members are carefully, perhaps cynically, chosen to communicate ethnic and sexual diversity--and for their skills as percussionist/actors. What struck me on this viewing, my third, was their talent as physical comedians (there isn't a word spoken, though there are lots of faces made). One of the running jokes pits the group's leader--a beefy guy with dyed blond hair and hoop earrings--against the low man on the totem pole, who sports a mohawk and dorky little specs. Their rivalry begins with comparing the length of the rubber tubes they play, but when the group forms a semicircle and each tries to outdo the others in percussive finesse, Mr. Glasses one-ups them all with a feat having nothing to do with percussion. The crowd pleasers are all here: the bit with the industrial metal sinks filled with water, the section where the performers fly around above the stage playing an array of percussive noninstruments, and the newspaper symphony (my personal favorite). Though in some ways the show's message is outmoded--domestic anomie appears trivial beside the threat of global warfare--Stomp remains entertaining, an aural and visual feast for the id. Leave your superego at home. Shubert Theatre, 22 W. Monroe, 312-902-1400. Through December 29: Tuesdays-Thursdays, 7:30 PM; Fridays, 8 PM; Saturdays, 5 and 9 PM; Sundays, 2 and 7:30 PM. Tuesday, December 24, 2 PM only; Thursday, December 26, 2 and 7:30 PM; no show Wednesday, December 25. $30-$50.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Oleg Micheyev.

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