Performers from STOMP appear on an open industrial stage. Three performers are downstage standing on top of aluminum trash cans with large drum sticks in the midst of a dance. They are wearing clothing in a gray color scale with a distressed aesthetic.

Lisa Condit spoke with Joshua Cruz from STOMP about the show, growing up in New York City, the inspiring rhythm of drums and more. Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Tune in to Talk of the Commonwealth with Hank Stolz on WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.

Lisa: Thank you all for listening to Behind the Scenes at The Hanover Theatre. This is Lisa Condit and I am excited beyond belief to be here with Joshua Cruz today. He is one of the characters in the upcoming performance of STOMP, coming to The Hanover Theatre [on May 31]. Welcome! 

Joshua: Thank you! Hello everybody. 

Lisa: I am thrilled to see you on stage, and I am curious how long you have been a part of STOMP.

Joshua: I have been a part of STOMP for five years, I would say. I do not know if we are counting the last years of the pandemic, but I will say five years, four to five years now. I got a chance to perform in New York for three of those years and I have been on the road for two years with the show on tour. I will be going to Philly soon!

Six performers of the cast are in the midst of a dance number doing a jump in the air while holding a broom.
Company of STOMP. Created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas. © Steve McNicholas

Lisa: Very cool. I see that you were born in, as you call it, in a big town called New York City and I love the fact that you started your musical journey playing drums at church and dancing salsa on the weekends. You are a very interesting person to me, so talk to me about playing the drums at church because that is a new experience for me. 

Joshua: Yeah, I think a lot of musicians – I am not saying I am one of the best – but a lot of musicians came from church growing up, especially in New York. There were people in church playing drums, learning how to play piano, could play guitar, and a lot of singers which were always around me. I was influenced by a guy named Ricky back in the day. When I was younger and I would see him play drums, I was just glued to watching him play while the service was going on at church. Then at age 6, I began to play drums myself at church. I grew up in one of those small churches, it was a Dominican church in the Bronx where they would say “Who wants to play drums today? Let’s get the service going!” So, I would raise my hand and I would just go up there. My first rhythm was the “George of the Jungle” rhythm and I did that for every song. As I got older, I got a chance to perfect my drumming and it all started at church. Then I went to school, I joined the jazz band and just went from there. Music was always around me growing up, especially in New York City. You had all your neighbors upstairs, downstairs, and to the side, everyone always had the radio on and so yeah, that is how I got into playing drums. Drums are a rhythm, they are a beat, now it’s what people call a vibe. 

Performers from STOMP appear on an open industrial stage. Three performers are downstage standing on top of aluminum trash cans with large drum sticks in the midst of a dance. They are wearing clothing in a gray color scale with a distressed aesthetic.
Company of STOMP. Created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas. © Steve McNicholas

Lisa: I love it, I love that your energy and enthusiasm is just shining through, and it sounds to me like STOMP is the perfect production for you based on what you are talking about. So, tell me about the first time you saw STOMP. I’m assuming you saw it before you auditioned? 

Joshua: Yes, one hundred percent. Back in the day, when the substitute teacher would come in with the rolling TV into the room, they would play a PBS special called STOMP. That was the first time I saw STOMP; a lot of teachers would play that in the 90’s in classrooms. Later, I went as a graduation gift. I think it was for high school. My mom took me to the show and we sat up in the balcony, way in the back, it was the best seats. It was in New York, and you can see everything up there from the Orpheum Theatre. As you are watching objects being thrown at the air, music being played by everyday objects, you’re like “you know what, I do this already!” I remember in school, we used to drum battle on desks for Yoo-hoo, the chocolate milk, stuff like that. STOMP is what we believe in, especially when you get into it and you learn more about the culture of it. You definitely believe that you can make music out of anything.

There’s music everywhere, you just have to listen. It is a great production. What’s beautiful about it is, although we are banging on drums and all this stuff, there is no talking at all. You can connect with anyone. Anyone can connect with the rhythms, and I think that has been done purposefully, because there’s rhythm in everything. Everyone can relate to the rhythm and the characters.

Joshua

Lisa: Oh absolutely. It’s interesting, I mentioned to you right before we started this interview that STOMP is a crowd favorite here at The Hanover Theatre & Conservatory. We have seen it come back a couple of times and very much back by popular demand! We have been selling extremely well. For those of you who are listening, we have some seats still available. I would not wait to buy these tickets, you should definitely go to our website TheHanoverTheatre.org. If you like what you’re hearing and you want to be inspired by the rhythm and the groove, I definitely recommend you check this out. How do you describe it to somebody who has never even heard of STOMP? I know it is hard to believe, there are a couple of people. 

Joshua: You enter the theatre and there is no curtain, so don’t expect a curtain for sure. You will see the set right when you walk in and it looks like a junkyard. Legit, a junkyard. There are different numbers that we play, a lot of people know a lot about what we do, but there is a number that I really like a lot, the opening number. It starts with the brooms, and that is when you notice everyone’s character coming in and the eight-person cast that comes in. We greet each other and we start from right there. We start there with the brooms, we have the brush down and we have different sounds. The whole show is not just banging on some loud objects, it is a whole intricate sound. There are also sounds that are really low. We also have different tones, so you won’t get a headache after the show. We go from starting out with brooms to ending with garbage cans, and of course that’s a bigger and louder number. It is a fun show. You will also be able to experience crowd participation during the show. We’re clapping our hands and you’re clapping too; we’re stomping on stage, and you may need to stomp them too if you want to! We break the fourth wall, so we invite you into our world and that’s what we do.

A female performer is standing underneath a spotlight wearing a blue utility jumpsuit with a defiant facial expression. She is carrying a large orange bin and has a drum stick up in the air. Behind are other members of the compony carrying trash cans and drum sticks as well, standing in a semi-circle.
Company of STOMP. Createdby Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas. © Steve McNicholas

Lisa: So, I have to ask you about the names of the characters because one of your characters is Dr. Who. So, describe that. Not that we would know because, again, there is no speaking. How did the names come up and how would you describe Dr. Who?

Joshua: Yeah, I am Doctor Who, but the main character we call the conductor of the show, his name is Sarge, like a sergeant. We follow his or her lead and we also have other characters such as Ringo. Ringo has a more laid-back kind of vibe. Potato Head would be Sargent’s right-hand man, he is very playful with the music, he is a drummer. Then we have the two girls in the show, we have Cornish, and she plays a comedic role. Then we have Bin, she plays the role of holding the beat as well. Then we have Doctor Who, a character where he pops out and plays the comedic role, but then goes back into his world. You will also notice another character named Mozzie, which is short for Mosquito. Mozzie goes around the room and acts up with us. Even with his music, you’ll notice his music is kind of quirky and funny. Within that, the characters start to develop within the music. At the end, we try to get Mozzie back because he has been trying to mess with us throughout the whole show as well. You will get to see what that looks like in the show. 

Lisa: I love how fun and witty every piece of this really is when we are thinking about the choreography, when we are talking about the rhythms, the names, the characters. There are no spoken words, so it’s really all about that interaction. Joshua, is there anything you want to tell our listeners?

Joshua: Yes, come on out and I look forward to seeing you guys in the crowd!

Lisa: Alright, we cannot wait! I have been talking with Joshua Cruz who plays the role of Dr. Who in STOMP. Get your tickets today at TheHanoverTheatre.org or contact 877.571.SHOW (7469) for more information.