PROUD of his Filipino blood, 39-year-old Andres Fernandez continues to show the world his artistic talent through music and dance. Grateful for the unwavering support of his Bicolano father and Kapampangan mother, Fernandez successfully pursued his dreams of becoming a performing artist 17 years ago by literally making noise on the worldwide stage.
This week, all eyes were on the talented Tagalog who brought the nation pride as the only Filipino to be part of the critically acclaimed theatrical performance group Stomp. The English born percussion and movement act wowed audiences at the Cultural Center of the Philippines for a limited six-night engagement, which ends tonight at the Main Theater.
“It feels good to be in the Philippines to perform. Although I’ve visited the Philippines many times before, it’s my first time to come here as a performer,” Fernandez said.
Although he hardly had time to spend with his family living here, Fernandez was overjoyed that his cousins, uncles and aunts were part of the audience these past days, as he and his fellow “Stompers” gave the same loud and gripping performances that have delighted countless people around the world.
“I’m part of the US national tour but I was invited to be part of the cast of the European company that’s performing here since they know of my Filipino background,” Fernandez told The Sunday Times Magazine. “Although I’ve been performing all over the world, this show holds a special place because [I am performing for the] Filipino audience.”
As part of Stomp’s original cast since it premiered in 1997, Fernandez has toured with the company in Africa, Europe and South America, besides the United States.
For those unfamiliar with Stomp, he described the production first and foremost as “Loud.”
“It’s all percussion rhythms, and there’s also dancing and comedy. It starts out with a janitor sweeping [the floor], and discovers rhythm with the sound of the broom. He then creates rhythm with his feet and with the brushes, then another guy comes in and the two create music, and the show goes on,” Fernandez enthused.
“In the show, we have eight different characters and that’s where we inject our own comedic performances. We stomp with our feet, make rhythm with our body, and use everyday instruments to make loud and unique noises.”
Stomp began in 1991 in Brighton, England. Its creators, Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, were part of a street band and theater group before they produced, directed and financed the very first show in London.
Since then, Stomp had conquered both the West End and Broadway, and has grown to entertain audiences worldwide, with a multi-race cast.
“What’s interesting about Stomp is that it started with just seven people from Brighton. Then it very quickly grew [to welcome]lots of different cultures, so that now, we have nationalities in the cast from all over,” related Cresswell who joined Fernandez and the rest of the crew in Manila.
“Every different cast member brings a new take on it [the character]. It’s very different from someone else’s version, that’s why a lot of people like to see the show more than once,” he added.
With trash bins, pots, pans, sinks, brooms, sticks and even lighters, the Stomppers give life to ordinary things to create an out-of-the-box, rough and edgy performance that gets the heart pounding with dance-inducing percussion beats.
“Basically, Stomp explores everyday sounds. It shows that the world is full of music and we don’t really need words to show how we are feeling,” Fernandez echoed.
Making his stamp
After its successful debut in Manila in 2011, Stomp’s comeback is all the more special this time with Fernandez in cast.
Born and raised in Hawaii by Filipino parents, Fernandez has been a performer for as long as he can remember. With an older and younger brother who also liked to sing and dance, they formed a boy band as young kids and performed in different occasions all over the island.
“My mom always encouraged us to perform. She would let us sing in barrio fiestas in Hawaii, and we would also perform at birthday parties. My kuya was already singing as young as three years old. And with my younger brother and I, we created this boy band like New Kids on the Block. At that time I was 11 years old, and my kuya was 14,” Fernandez recalled.
Truly talented, the singing brood even had its first concert at Hilton Hawaii, and was commissioned to open for concerts of recording artists including The Jets, and the Philippines’ very own Gary Valenciano and Martin Nievera.
Fernandez further remembered that his mother encouraged he and his brothers to join singing competitions, which for him, helped to build his confidence and character as a professional performing artist.
Fernandez got his break when his older brother, Johnny, encouraged him to fly to Los Angeles and audition for theater productions. With his brother in Miss Saigon, he tried his luck in shows like Lion King, Starlight Express and Phantom of the Opera. While he did not get a call back to these, his final audition turned out to be “the one.”
“I was 22 years old at that time, and I was ready to get into more serious stuff. At the first call, they had me do the hands and feet number and I just had fun with it. I also did a backhand spring and I landed on my head, and my feet went over. I was called back after that,” the performer shared with amusement.
Fast forward to today Fernandez still enjoys performing for Stomp, as well as the company of his fellow cast members whom he calls “family.”
As the first Filipino to set foot on Stomp’s stage, he has always maintained a good relationship with his colleagues. He believes that his ease with getting along people of all cultures comes from being Filipino.
“Everybody [in Stomp]is just so welcoming. If you don’t come up with an attitude, thinking that you are better than everybody, then it’s all good. We get along and that’s how it’s been throughout the years,” Fernandez happily shared.
Fernandez is currently based in Las Vegas with his wife Ola, daughter Araya, and son, Keaunu. Without any plans of leaving Stomp any time soon, he is eager to see more of the world while doing what he loves best.
“The best thing about stomping is that I get to travel and to perform on stage. I just love to perform,” Fernandez shared.
“I also like the message that the show brings—that music is in everything, and it is all around us. You don’t need an instrument to make music,” he ended.