The Tom Tom Crew
nytheatre.com review by David Ian Lee
May 30, 2009
It would be easy for some New Yorkers to cynically dismiss the notion of paying any ticket price to witness The Tom Tom Crew at the New Victory Theatre. After all, this Australian import—billed as "Daredevil Theatre from Aussie Acrobats"—features routines and an aesthetic similar to those any subway rider or pedestrian might catch for free, just by visiting Times Square; there are breakdancers and drummers, beat boxers and buskers. The scenery is minimal and the (also minimal) costumes could be politely described as street clothes. And yet, by evening's end, the seven talented young men who comprise The Tom Tom Crew are certain to have offered enough feats of seeming impossibility to impress even the most jaundiced theatre-goer.
With neither a narrative nor an attempt to pretend one was ever intended, The Tom Tom Crew operates like a modern urban variety show. An acrobatic quartet is followed by a DJ spinning beats, who is in turn followed by a drummer in defiance of gravity, who is followed by a most remarkable beat boxer (beat boxing being "the art of vocal percussion by imitating drum sounds and beat patterns"). There seems to be little "Aussie" about this presentation from Strut & Fret, directed by Scott Maidment, save for the accents of drummer/MC Ben Walsh and Tom Thum (the aforementioned world champion beat boxer). Such perhaps may serve as a mildly xenophobic backhanded compliment to the universality of The Tom Tom Crew: this is a production designed to appeal to a wide demographic swath.
Thum and Walsh are superb ringmasters of organized chaos, and DJ Sampology keeps the beats fresh and the energy high. Ben Lewis, Daniel Gatlow, Karl Stock, and Shane Witt offer physical performances that challenge the ferocity of any nancy pastel-clad Cirque du Soliel production; featuring aerial gymnastics and spring-loaded back flips—including a stunning sequence featuring what might best be described as the love child of a set of circus stilts and a pogo stick—the work of The Tom Tom Crew's company is visceral, muscular, and utterly astounding. These visiting artists from Down Under deserve a warm welcome on the Great White Way.