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Theatre Review (LA): Stop the World – I Want to Get Off at the Alex Theatre

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Musical Theatre Guild opened their 14th season with the seldom-seen Stop The World – I Want To Get Off, with book, lyrics, and music by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse. This musical meets the company's stated purpose of producing rarely seen musicals, and it is well suited for the concert-staged readings that are their modus operandi. The cast is quite small, with two main characters: Littlechap (originally played by Anthony Newley) and Evie (originally played by Anna Quayle). Later productions starred Sammy Davis Jr. and Marion Mercer, Joel Grey and Joan Eastman, and (in a filmed version) Tony Tanner and Millicent Martin.

The original Broadway show ran for 555 performances and was nominated for several Tony Awards. So the show must be considered a recognizable hit. Still, you don't see it revived, despite its cheap sets and minimal cast. Yet theatre lovers might recognize much of the score, especially "Once in A Lifetime," "What Kind of Fool am I," and "Gonna Build a Mountain," which have become popular standards. Most of the rest of the songs, however, are really just suited for the show and not the world of pop music.

The story is simple. Littlechap marries the boss's daughter and begins to rise through the ranks and build a family. But all this seems too much for him, so he starts to stray with various women: a German, an American songstress, and a Russian. These women are all played by the actress who plays Evie. Eventually Littlechap comes to realize that Evie was his one true love, and he had led a life of pointless pain and suffering (thus "Stop the world, I want to get off").

Director Douglas Clayton has assembled a talented cast and even added a few other men to the mix (though I really missed seeing a male child as in the original). Justin Robertson plays Littlechap, and the ever-talented Tracy Lore plays Evie and all the others. Robertson has a nice big voice, but failed to really inhabit his role. I never felt caught up in his pain. Ms. Lore, however, lights up the stage with her talent and knocks this musical out of the park. I am beginning to wonder if she is ever not spectacular. The musical direction was by Ron Colvard and the choreography, what little there was, was by Joe Giamalva.

Stop the World – I Want to Get Off played at the Alex Theatre in Glendale and then again, a week later, at the Scheer Forum in Thousand Oaks.

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