Make my mumbo jumbo
Chico Theater Company sings an impressive note with Stop the World…
I was a little concerned when I saw the mimes. You know, white pancake makeup. Dark outlines around eyes. Tear drops. But then the three-piece band swung into action (Carol Lane on piano, Nate LaFranchi on bass and Joe Bacchus on drums), and my thoughts were as clear as the brilliant sound system: I think I’m about to be impressed.
Joey Mahoney’s direction of Anthony Newley’s Stop the World, I Want to Get Off treats the audience to a well-paced, impeccably choreographed rendition of the ‘60s-era play-within-a-play that introduced standards such as “What Kind of Fool Am I?” and “Once In a Lifetime.”
John Mahoney takes center stage as the member of an English acting troupe trying to decide upon a play for the evening. Thus is literally born “Littlechap,” a baby who in the span of about four minutes becomes a young man in need of a job. We follow his many empty (yet scrumptious) international relationships and his vacuous corporate and political career to the very end of his life, at which point he laments, “What kind of clown am I?” While his exploits are those of a selfish, hedonistic male, John Mahoney’s Littlechap radiates with a sweet playfulness that is endearing and ultimately forgivable.
Joey Mahoney transcends her respectable opening role as the “typically English rosebud” Evie to electrify the stage as the “glorious Russian comrade” Anya, the frighteningly “typische Deutsche fraulein” Ilse, and the breathy-voiced, “all American female” Ginnie. While the material makes references to such dated ideas as “the master race” and “Soviet space,” Joey Mahoney’s expert handling of these delicious stereotypes brings the audience to its collective, subservient Western imperialistic knees.
The rest of the 10-member cast work as expertly as a well-oiled machine—during the factory scenes, quite literally. Intricate arrangements such as that for the number “Nag, Nag, Nag” are performed with a physical and vocal skill that belies the tender ages of Chico High students Sophie Speer, Jackie Herbert and LaShona Haskell.
In the words of Littlechap, "Mumbo jumbo, rhubarb rhubarb." Which may well translate to, "Send in the clowns."