Steve Weiss first saw a production of Stomp in San Francisco when he was 10 years old. Ten years later, he saw it again with his grandmother at the Merriam Theater.
Now, he is performing in the production on that very stage through Dec. 31.
“It’s totally coming full circle for me,” said Weiss, who grew up in Broomall and moved to Las Vegas where he also works as a fitness instructor. “It’s going to be a really unique moment for me I won’t soon forget, getting to be on stage that I once was watching that inspired me.”
He plays a character called Potato Head — though he admitted he doesn’t know why.
“I’ve only been in the show a couple months, so maybe I need to last longer before they tell me,” he laughed.
It’s a heavily drumming character in a show in which all of the characters use movement and everyday objects like trash cans, brooms, even sinks to create music and communicate — a necessity as the show has no dialogue.
There are eight characters in total and while they do not speak, they still tell a story that has managed to communicate to audiences all over the world since it started in 1991 in Brighton, England. It opened in New York three years later and hasn’t left.
“We don’t speak, so it’s not like you can explain, ‘I’m Steve and I like to play drums,’” he laughed, “so the challenge as a performer is to emote to the audience without being super obvious.”
Weiss performed the show in New York before joining the touring cast. For three years before that, he was a part of Recycled Percussion in Las Vegas, created by a group that gained national attention on America’s Got Talent (he joined later when they were looking for more cast members).
His performing life came about a bit by accident.
He picked up the drums in fourth grade when all the students had to take up an instrument, and it stuck. He played in the marching band, jazz band and orchestra through middle and high school and was a percussionist with the Penn State Blue Band while a student there. He studied marketing and psychology and had been interning with an ad agency, but it never turned into a full-time position.
But, as it turned out, it was the greatest thing that ever happened to him.
He applied for a job on a cruise ship and within three weeks, he was coasting on the Caribbean playing the drums.
“One thing led to another, and eventually I ended up in Vegas doing a headline show on the Vegas Strip, which is crazy, and now I’m on tour with a really legendary New York City show,” he said in awe.
All the while, he’s been guided by the Jewish values instilled in him growing up. While he wasn’t overly religious, he had his Bar Mitzvah at Temple Sholom in Broomall, and Jewish morals have continued to play a key role in his life.
“Even when it comes down to something [like] work ethic, I feel like with my Jewish friends and family members there’s a certain work ethic and seriousness, like attention to detail that I find to be common in Jewish culture,” he said.
This becomes especially important with music.
“Professional music requires a meticulous attitude; you really need to make your choices wisely and be very diligent with practicing and communicating,” he explained.
With Stomp, communicating with the other performers is paramount since they don’t have lines to cue each other. Its story is one that appeals to all audiences, he said, as the audience can see themselves in the characters.
“What’s great about Stomp is it’s all walks of life, people of all shapes and sizes and that’s what in a way can appeal to the masses,” he said. “It’s all different ethnicities and colors and hairstyles and languages and it’s cool because music is the glue. Music brings it all together.”
For him, getting to be a part of a production that friends and performers he looks up to as mentors once were part of is special.
He advised potential showgoers to “expect to be surprised and inspired.”
“People hear the name Stomp or they have some sort of preconceived notion of what Stomp is,” he said. “They think it’s just a lot of noise and a racket and it’s loud — and there certainly are those points in the show, but it’s very clever how it’s been written, how it’s put together. It’s very yin and yang. Where there are loud moments are counterbalanced by soft moments; where there are intense serious moments are played off of really funny things that happen.
“I’m really lucky and blessed to be given an opportunity to do this and be a part of a legendary show,” he added. “Now that’s part of my history and that truly makes me happy.”
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