From the Seats to Starring Role: Cary Lamb, Jr. Talks ‘STOMP,’ Now in Chicago

His name is Cary Lamb, Jr., the warrior, shape maker, and athletic mover in “STOMP,” the wordless music, dance and theater production that has captivated audiences for decades. 

“STOMP” began its run at New York’s Orpheum Theatre in 1994, and after nearly 30 years and 11,475 performances, it closed in New York City in January. 

But that doesn’t mean the show is over. “STOMP” is now playing in Chicago at the Broadway Playhouse At Water Tower Place through Dec. 31. 

As Particle Man, Lamb plays an integral role, but his journey with this beloved production began long before he quit his pursuit to become a teacher to audition and snag the role back in 2017. 

The Long Island, New York native recently spoke to The Chicago Defender about his first encounter with “STOMP,” his relationship with tap dancing and why he has such gratitude as a performer.  

Tacuma Roeback: I want to take you back to when you were eight years old when you first saw STOMP. 

Cary Lamb, Jr.: Oh, yeah. New York City. I don’t know if you know that they closed it in New York City. And that’s tough because I remember vividly not knowing anything about the show and then just being blown away and having a whole new door open in my mind because of the show. 

I actually went because someone who is in the show currently, Alan [Asuncion], was performing, and my mom went to support him. Fast forward 15 years later, and now I’m doing shows with that same guy we went to see, Alan, who’s an awesome drummer and comedian. I’m really blessed.

“Expect to have a really good time and to listen to the world in a different way when you leave the show.” – Cary Lamb, Jr. on what audiences should expect from “STOMP”

Tacuma Roeback: This is like a full circle moment for you, to see the show at eight years old, which you would eventually star in. That show is what got you captivated with the arts. Is that correct?

Cary Lamb, Jr.: Absolutely. You know, young people, they just need some form of confirmation that they can do what they dream of doing. So, I go to see the show and see people of all shades on stage. I immediately feel like this is a place where I belong. As you study and as you go to school, you start to think, ‘What am I going to do with my life?’ You start to think about those spaces and, immediately, the stage and “STOMP.” So, on my last day in college, I took the train all the way to the city and auditioned. I’m so glad I did because that was the year I got “STOMP.”

Tacuma Roeback: Because you were going to be a math teacher. Is that right?

Cary Lamb, Jr.: Oh, yeah. How do you know that? Yes, I was planning on studying to become an educator in Math. And then, two weeks into college, I said, ‘Hmm, there’s something else calling my name.’ And if I don’t honor it, I’m going to regret it. So I’m glad I did.

Tacuma Roeback: I read in your bio that you performed with Missy Elliott, Chance the Rapper, the New York Mets, the Brooklyn Nets. Of all those memorable moments, which of those stands out the most?

Cary Lamb, Jr.: When you read them off, I vividly remember the Brooklyn Nets, mainly because I did that performance with my high school show choir. They’re called the Rhythm of the Knight [of Uniondale High School], and they’re extremely talented. The director there, Lynette Carr-Hicks, comes to all the “STOMP” shows. She’s always supported me since I tapped dance for her way back in middle school. So that’s the one I think of the most. 

Also, performing in a group has a different feel. You’re not just performing for yourself or for your ego; you’re performing for one another next to you on stage. We had a choir of about 50 Kids, and we were all dancing our hearts out—so big shout out to the Rhythm of the Knight.

Tacuma Roeback: Above all, what attracted you most to tap dancing versus other forms of movement?

Photo: A shot from the production of STOMP, created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas (Photo courtesy of Steve McNicholas)

Cary Lamb, Jr.: I vividly remember my sister going to dance school and being jealous. Watching her go, I said, ‘I want to go, I want to go, I want to go.’ They finally let me go, and that was my first class, a tap class. I remember just being able to get out all that energy. You know, when you’re a kid, you just have an excess amount of rhythm and vigor. Tap was the first art form that allowed me to just release it all. 

Ever since then, I have been in love, and I slowly began to understand more about rhythms and precision and things like that. But still, that same release is what attracted me, and I still get to do that to this day. It’s a show where I could definitely just perform every last drop in the tank, you know?

Tacuma Roeback: After all these years of being in the production, what has evolved or changed for you as a performer and even in your role as “Particle Man?”

Cary Lamb, Jr.: What has changed the most since 2017 has been my gratitude of being able to perform. COVID was a tough time because audiences weren’t coming together. People weren’t allowed to be that close in the theater. It just made me realize how much of that we took for granted, simply occupying the same space and being able to escape from the world.

So, now that we have it again, now that we have the opportunity, I really have a new sense of gratitude onstage. Even when I see a show, just gratitude to be able to gather in this way. It really is a privilege and an honor to be able to perform. The responsibility of a performer is to give the audience that permission to let yourself go and forget about the bills, forget about the job, forget about whatever is weighing you down and just be uplifted. I have a newfound appreciation for that.

Tacuma Roeback: All artists have this guiding philosophy that makes them do what they do. What is the philosophy behind your art and showing up every night to perform? What propels you?

Cary Lamb, Jr.: I feel like it’s a question I’m still trying to answer myself. But as you ask me, what comes to mind is just appreciation, humility and gratitude. Life is so short when we look at how long the Earth has been here and how long humans have been here. But artists have a responsibility to make us zoom in on one little moment or two hours of our lives and really appreciate and savor it. So, that’s what propels me: that gratitude that I have and being able to inspire someone else.

Tacuma Roeback: What can audiences in Chicago expect from “STOMP?”

Photo: A shot from the production of STOMP with Cary Lamb, Jr., created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas (Photo courtesy of Steve McNicholas)

Cary Lamb, Jr.: What can they expect? They should expect the unexpected. I get frustrated whenever I try to explain the show to someone because it’s so much. It’s so much music and, energy and creativity. It’s not what people think. 

That’s always the response I get. ‘I didn’t think it was going to be that, and I’m so glad.’

Expect the unexpected. Expect to have a really good time and to listen to the world in a different way when you leave the show. You’re going to start to hear music everywhere you go, in the crane digging up dirt on the side of the road. You’re gonna hear the “goo-goo-gaga, goo-goo-gaga.” You’re going to hear it as you sit on the train and hear the rhythm. And in the everyday there’s music all around us that we don’t really pay attention to. The show does a really good job of making us pay attention and making us appreciate it.

For More Information

What: STOMP, Created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas

Where: Broadway Playhouse At Water Tower Place (175 E Chestnut St, Chicago)

When: Now Until Dec. 31.

What Else: Individual tickets are available by visiting or any Broadway In Chicago venue box office. Runtime, 1 hour and 45 minutes with no intermission.

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