Andres "Pooh" Fernandez has been all over the world with STOMP for 16 years and now he's back on the road on his way to Houston (thanks to the Society for the Performing Arts) with his group of performers who'll use just about anything to make noise with.
For those who aren't aware of STOMP, Fernandez says: "It's kind of dancing but you're stomping and you're moving rhythmically." It started in Great Britain and spread worldwide. It performers have played Vegas, been on Sesame Street and won all kinds of awards including an Olivier Award for Best Choreography, a New York Obie Award, a Drama Desk Award and an Emmy Award for their HBO special Stomp Out Loud.
Fernandez, the rehearsal director and also swing performer (sometimes he's the happy guy) for the North American tour says even though STOMP has been through Houston before, most of the cast is new and there's two new numbers. And even when some of the classics are being performed, Fernandez says, with new people in the roles, it comes out differently.
"We're 25 percent improv, 75 percent written. Within that 25 percent it's always changing; we're always doing different things, playing different rhythms. The cast changes nightly. I take a different approach from the way the other guy took it," says Fernandez who grew up in Hawaii and auditioned for the cast in 1997. "My older brother was on national tour of Miss Saigon. We both grew up singing and dancing."
Fernandez was not as fortunate as his brother; he says he auditioned for several shows but wasn't selected. But when he tried out for STOMP, it was another matter for the former cheerleader. Despite the fact the line was "like 3,000 people long," and that by the time Fernandez got to the front they told him they were closing down for the day and to come back the next, when he did. He attempted a back handspring, which he muffed, but made them laugh, he says. He got his callback and the rest is history.
Asked about the nickname Pooh, Fernandez says: "Back in '97 when I first got in the show. I was 230. I'm like 190 now. I had a Pooh hat and and a shirt. I'm like Winnie the Pooh not doo doo."
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This year they've added two different numbers and are doing one number with a time signature of "5" (think the Mission Impossible song) instead of 4-4 or 6-8 time.
In one of the new acts, they use shopping carts (trolleys in England) to make a sliding sound, he says. In the other new act called "Frogs" they use plumbing pipes to make a sound that yes, makes ribbit sounds.
STOMP has lasted so long because it catches people off guard, Fernandez says. And because it doesn't need translation. "There's no dialog. It's universal. We don't have to change the language. We don't need subtitles."
Houston's Society for the Performing Arts is bringing STOMP back to Houston for four performances on at 8 p.m. Friday, January 25, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, January 26 and 2 p.m. Sunday, January 27 in Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For ticket information call 713-227-4772 or go to the SPA website. $35-$80.