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The World as 'Stomp'-ing Grounds

December 27, 2007 By:
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Bringing in the New Year with a bang at the Merriam Theater
"Puttin' on the ... Lids"?

Who better to traverse the labs of Broadway and off-Broadway -- between new monster hit "Young Frankenstein" and its fashionable number of "Puttin' on the Ritz," and "Stomp," the long-running trash-can concerto -- than a man who discovered their alchemy as a youngster in the audience of "The Magic Show."

The abracadabra hasn't ended for Marc Routh, now an exec producer for both "YF" and "Stomp," and who, along with Tom Viertel, Steven Baruch and Richard Frankel, have, frankly, made the world their stage -- and stomping grounds -- for the past 22 years.

They've driven Miss Daisy, and bought plant food at a "Little Shop of Horrors," while getting a cut of and at "Sweeney Todd" and been inside "SpongeBob Squarepants."

And, of course, they've been producers of "The Producers."

For this week, they're making their stomping grounds in Philadelphia, where "Stomp," the perky percussive musical that sweeps the stage with more aplomb than the Rockies against the Phillies, and uses more brooms than Witch Hazel on a night out with the gargoyles, is playing the Merriam Theater through Jan. 2.

Using everything but the kitchen sink -- maybe that, too -- the "Stomp" musicians can flush out an ode to toilet that perfumes the place with creativity and some rather funky phenomenal sounds.

Hubcaps as hubs of imagination, plastic bags covering hit tunes ... music is in the air -- and ear -- of the beholder.

And Routh, for one, is beholden to the bizarre bands he's helped put together here, off-Broadway and all over the world, where "Stomp" has plunged with plungers at the ready with its unstoppable appeal.

Okay in the U.K.
It's not "What's in your wallet?" but "What's in your kitchen?" that was the capitol idea spurred on by the original British production, which did more than okay in the U.K.

"It's eight people using household items creating different rhythms," says Routh.

Your baby clanging those pots and pans? A problem or a possible future Broadway star?

Depends.

Not that Routh went that route. Before becoming one of the planet's most prolific producers, baby Routh caught a different stage -- one which led him to the Jewish Community Center.

"From 10 to 16, I performed at my local JCC," recalls Ohio's high-spirited entrepreneur. "I was always cast as 10-year-olds because I had a high voice, and I was short. At 16, my voice changed."

Some thing are still the same. "I'm still short."

And longing to love what he was doing then forever. "In high school, I knew I wanted to be a producer."

By graduation day at the University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill, his ambition was tugging at his tar heels. One intro led to another to another to what any fan of theater, especially musical theater, cherishes: an overture.

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum -- yes, he produced that, too -- of his future; he started working for Frankel.

The erstwhile press agent pressed forward with his dreams. And now he's found a home as head honcho producer.

Bialystock or Bloom? "There's a little of both in all of us," he says with a chuckle.

If the sounds of music coming from the stage of the Merriam are distinctively dynamic, they are certainly different from the Rodgers and Hammerstein scores he brought to Asia and elsewhere.

In all the tornado of talent he's helped put on stage, there's no place like ... "I've produced all over the world," he says, "but there's no place like New York."

Theater is more than business; it's been academic as well. Routh's credits include some serious professional time as a university professor and lecturer; he is one Hall of Famer unafraid of the sting of steroid scandal. His membership is in the New York University Business School Entrepreneurs Hall of Fame, where success is the ultimate high.

And he's had that aplenty. In fact, he could write a book about the business. He is. "I started writing a textbook, nine chapters."

His is also a textbook case of having it all. "I have a wonderful family -- two kids and my partner."

And that extended family of Broadway, where "Leap of Faith" -- based on the Steve Martin movie -- is due up next from a man who put his faith in the bounty of the business long ago.

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