Let’s stomp!

Andres (or Andre) Fernandez, the middle child in a family with three boys, says he’s been performing publicly since he was 11 or 12 years old. Seems the trio of brothers, raised in Honolulu, are all quite talented in both the song and dance department.

First they sang at family parties and such, but have long since transitioned to the stage. For a time they had a dance group called the “Body Gesture Boys,” which specialized in hop hop. It was the ‘80s, recalls Fernandez, and break dancing was all the rage. “Dad was the video guy,” recalls Fernandez, “and mom handled our promotions.”

Fernandez also studied music in school, playing trombone, xylophone and “some drums” in the all-school band. He did the band thing from 7th to 12th grade, and then attended college for two years on a cheerleading scholarship. Soon he had a son, now a senior in high school, and found it hard to juggle school, work and parenting. So college had to give.

Today he’s the proud father of a daughter too, who is just nine years old and “into ballroom dance.” She has a beautiful voice, says Fernandez, but prefers to dance rather than sing at this point. Recently, he adds, she started learning the samba. He’s not afraid to admit that they like watching “Dancing with the Stars” together, or to share that he’s rooting for Ricki Lake.

STOMP comes to ASU Gammage next month

Fernandez first saw “Stomp” in 1996, while his older brother was appearing in “Miss Saigon.” Like many families full of performers, Fernandez seems to mark time by recalling which brother did what gig when. “Stomp” was touring in Hawaii at the time and only single seats were available, so the trio went together but sat far apart. Still, it made an impact.

“How do you teach somebody to do that,” wondered Fernandez. “That’s totally crazy – amazing!” Three months later one of his brothers heard that “Stomp” would be holding auditions in L.A.

Turns out there were actually six open casting calls taking place at around the same time. Fernandez nixed auditioning for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “Phantom of the Opera” – but decided to give the others a try.

The “Starlight Express” people were looking for triple pirouettes and such, something Fernandez hadn’t done much of with his break dancing rather than ballet background. Folks from “The Lion King” wanted African modern dance. Again, it wasn’t his vibe. But the “Stomp” show mixes percussion and dance, things Fernandez does with ease and enthusiasm.

Performers who auditioned for “Stomp” had to learn a set routine – then add their own solo when it came time to strut their stuff. One of Fernandez’ brothers urged him to punch it up with a back handstand, but Fernandez worried the move had been left undone so long that he might not be able to nail it. Fernandez threw it in, but his instincts proved spot on.

“My hand gave out and I landed on my head,” recalls Fernandez. “That didn’t go as I thought it would.” Fernandez was shocked when he, not his brothers, got a callback. Apparently only three people got that call, and Fernandez felt shocked by making the short list. The audition process involved several call backs over the course of three days, and Fernandez learned a month later that he’d been cast. “When can you be available,” he recalls them asking. Fernandez’ answer was “now.”

Fernandez left Honolulu in May of ’97 to begin training for “Stomp” in New York. His first show was just five weeks later, in July. He’s now in his 14th year as a cast member of “Stomp” – and says he’s played all eight roles in the show. “Even,” he adds, “the women’s roles.” If his passion for the work had waned, it doesn’t show. Fernandez sounds like just the kind of spirited person and performer you want to see on stage. Drumroll, anyone?

 — Lynn

Note: Click here for information on this and other shows coming to ASU Gammage this season. Their December offerings include “Stomp” (Dec. 28-31) and “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” (De6. 6-11). Want to enjoy a bit of percussion before “Stomp” rolls into town? Head to Chandler-Gilbert Community College for a free “Percussion Ensemble Concert” (with specials guests — the CGCC Latin percussion ensemble) Mon, Nov. 21 at 7:30pm.

Coming up: Neanderthals make nice?

Photo: Junichi Takahashi

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