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How ‘Stomp!’ cast member remains fit for his theatrical workout

The eight performers who comprise the cast of “Stomp” — the enduring percussion spectacle that will return to Chicago for a one-week engagement (Jan. 20-25) at the Bank of American Theatre — get an aerobic workout at each show that not even the most tyrannical personal trainer could devise. For 90 minutes, they are engaged in nonstop motion — banging on cans and kitchen sinks, wielding brooms and garbage can covers, and clambering up scaffolding to reach ever greater percussive heights.

In fact, the show is so strenuous, and the national touring company maintains such a hectic traveling schedule, that the ensemble includes 12 rotating performers, of whom only eight appear on stage on any given night.

Jeremy Price, 37, who is one of the older cast members, and has been with various incarnations of the show since 2003, can “swing” into any of four different roles as needed.

“The show itself keeps you fit and is quite a cardio-vascular workout, so the real trick is to just keep yourself healthy overall,” said Price. “How we do that varies from person to person in the cast. My own techniques for meeting the physical challenges have changed over the years. I used to lift weights, but not anymore. Now I mostly try to do a 90-minute routine of a very physically demanding form of yoga — ashtanga — on a daily basis. Mostly I just work out in my hotel room, which often can involve moving the furniture, but, if we’re in a city that’s near the beach and has nice weather, I’ll go outdoors.”

"Stomp!" | Steve McNicholas photo

The travel schedule for the show can be a challenge, too.

“Sometimes we’re in a city, like Chicago, for a week,” said Price. “But sometimes we move three times a week, traveling by plane or by chartered sleeper bus. And the amount of energy you see on the stage is real, as is the impact of hard flooring on our bodies.”

A performance day involves a rehearsal and time spent setting the many props used during the show. About 40 minutes before the show the physical therapist that travels with the company puts the cast through a warm up (calisthenics, high kicks and spinal twists) and cool down.

As for his on-the-road diet, Price, who began his career as a break-dancer and drummer, explains: “I try not to eat a lot of meat — mostly organic vegetables — but many of the others in the cast happily eat burgers. Hydration is absolutely crucial. I start every morning by drinking 16 to 32 ounces of water, and then drink tea constantly throughout the day.”

Created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, “Stomp” has been performed in more than 50 countries and been seen by more than 24 million people since it first emerged in England in 1991, and it now plays at New York’s Orpheum Theatre, with a permanent London company, and both North American and European tours. Throughout its life, the show has continued to change with the development of new material that, as Cresswell puts it, “is about making a rhythm out of anything we can get our hands on that makes a sound.”

Synchronized stiff-bristle brooms become a sweeping orchestra, eight Zippo lighters flip open and closed to create a fiery fugue, and wooden poles are used to trigger a rhythmic explosion. Everything but conventional percussion instruments are used — from dustbins, tea chests and radiator hoses, to boots and hub caps.

NOTE: “Stomp!” runs Jan. 20-25 at the Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe. For tickets: ($20 – $65) call (800) 775-2000 or visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com.