Jump to content

Stop the World – I Want to Get Off

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Stop the World – I Want to Get Off
Original 1961 London cast recording
MusicLeslie Bricusse
Anthony Newley
LyricsLeslie Bricusse
Anthony Newley
BookLeslie Bricusse
Anthony Newley
Productions1961 West End
1962 Broadway
1966 Film
1978 Broadway revival

Stop the World – I Want to Get Off is a 1961 musical with a book, music, and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley. In 1966 Warner Bros. released a film adaptation of the play. In 1996, a film version was produced for TV, made for the A&E Network.

According to Oscar Levant, the play's title was derived from a graffito.[1]


The show, set against a circus backdrop, focuses on Littlechap from the moment of his birth until his death. Each time something unsatisfactory happens, he calls out 'Stop the world!' and addresses the audience. After being born, going through school, and finding work as a tea-boy, his first major step towards improving his lot is to marry his boss' daughter Evie after getting her pregnant out of wedlock. Saddled with the responsibilities of a family, he is given a job in his father-in-law's factory. He has two daughters, Susan and Jane, but truly longs for a son. He allows his growing dissatisfaction with his existence to lead him into the arms of various women in his business travels—Russian official Anya, German domestic Ilse, and American cabaret singer Ginnie—as he searches for something better than he has. He becomes rich and successful and is elected to public office. Only in his old age does he realize that what he always had, the love of his wife, was more than enough to sustain him. But Evie dies, and Littlechap comes to terms with his own selfishness while writing his memoirs. At the moment of his death, he watches his second daughter give birth to a son. When the boy nearly dies, Littlechap intervenes and allows Death to take him instead. He then mimes his own birth, beginning the cycle once again.

Production history[edit]

Opening first in Manchester, the original production transferred to the West End and opened on 20 July 1961 at the Queen's Theatre. Directed by Newley, it ran for 485 performances. Newley starred as Littlechap, with Anna Quayle playing the multiple roles of Evie and the other women in his life. Marti Webb made her West End debut as a member of the chorus. An original cast recording was released by Decca Records.[2]

Producer David Merrick, always impressed by a low-cost project requiring minimal sets, costumes, and a small cast, decided to stage the show in New York City. It was directed by Newley, and featured scenery and lighting design by Sean Kenny, musical supervision by Ian Fraser, musical direction by Milton Rosenstock, orchestrations by Ian Fraser. After one preview, the Broadway production opened on 3 October 1962 at the Shubert Theatre, eventually transferring to the Ambassador to complete its 555-performance run.[3] Newley and Quayle reprised their London roles. Newley later was replaced by Kenneth Nelson, then Joel Grey, and Joan Eastman assumed the roles of Evie et al.

A Broadway cast limited run recording was originally released by RCA Victor Records, however, the mainstream version was subsequently released by London Records.[4] On the national company tour, the show starred Grey and Julie Newmar.

A Broadway revival directed by Mel Shapiro opened on 3 August 1978 at the New York State Theater in Lincoln Center, where it ran for 30 performances. The cast included Sammy Davis Jr. and Marian Mercer. A revival cast recording was released by Warner Bros. Records.[5]

A London revival, directed by Newley, opened at the Lyric Theatre on 19 October 1989, starring Newley and Rhonda Burchmore. It was updated slightly, but it retained the Nazi-ish Fräulein, the Bolshevik Russian girl, and the Judy-Holliday-ditzy American blonde—all much more distant than in 1961 and thus outside the experience of anyone under 40. It received poor reviews and closed after just 52 performances over five weeks. Newley was very disappointed and bitter about the reviews, as he told the audience after the final curtain.

Film adaptation[edit]

A 1966 Warner Bros. release was little more than a filmed version of a staged production. Directed by Philip Saville, it featured additional material by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, David Donable, and Al Ham. The cast included Tony Tanner and Millicent Martin. Neither a critical nor commercial success, it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Music Scoring. The film deleted the German mistress sequence and substituted a Japanese mistress. It is not clear whether this was the Bergman contribution or if Newley and Bricusse created the new sequence. It is also unclear why this substitution was made. In the film version, the show ends with "What Kind of Fool Am I?" There is no birth of a grandson, nor of Littlechap choosing to die in his stead and being reborn, as in the original musical play. With the exception of "Typische Deutsche", the original score is transferred complete.

Sammy Davis Jr. and Marian Mercer reprised their Broadway revival roles for Sammy Stops the World, a 1978 television adaptation[6] taped at the Terrace Theater in Long Beach, California. It was theatrically released in a limited engagement in various American cities on 21 September 1979. As with the prior adaptation, this was neither a critical nor commercial success. Dennis Hunt of the Los Angeles Times said that "there are closeups and attempts at creative editing in this film but these elements aren't nearly enough to make it more than a statically filmed play"; he added that "this is a star vehicle but he can't really make it go. Davis, who can be an overpowering presence on stage, doesn't come across vividly and forcefully in this play-movie. It's not totally his fault. His efforts don't add up to much because he has no exceptional material to work with. Putting Davis in this production is like renting a cannon and filling it with blanks."[7] Tom McElfresh of The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote:

THE 103 minutes of film resulting from this ill-advised project are as boring, depressing and irritating an exercise in how not to make a movie as has ever been exhibited for money.

What a waste of Sammy Davis Jr.'s [dynamite] talent!!

It's as though 50 years of progress in filmmaking technique had never occurred. You're yanked out of 1979 and right back to the stilted, artificial days of Adolph Zukor and Jesse Lasky's "famous players in famous plays." Only Zukor and Lasky paid more attention to production values than did the makers of this disaster.

"Sammy's" sound isn't as good as that you might remember from the earliest Vitaphone short subjects; when you can hear, which is far from all the time, the voices come hollowly from a great distance. It's just good enough to emphasize all the bad notes hit by leading lady Marian Mercer.

It's a musical, folks. You're supposed to be able to hear the music.[8]

Michael Clark of the Detroit Free Press called it "one of the half-dozen most humiliating and embarrassing times any fllmgoer can ever hope to spend In a motion picture theater."[9] Robert C. Trussell of The Kansas City Star said that "the Newley-Bricusse work has been stripped of most of its inherent—albeit marginal—interest and has been redesigned to allow Davis to mug shamelessly and milk the audience for cheap laughs with a multitude of low comedy routines."[10] Edwin Howard of the Memphis Press Scimitar called it "merely a dumb show with scenes pointlessly juggled and re-jiggered in the editing. Even cut to an hour and 35 minutes, it seems interminable."[11] Joe Baltake of the Philadelphia Daily News called it "a vanity film for Davis and his fans"[12] whilst Ernest Leogrande of the New York Daily News wrote that "the passage of time painfully emphasizes the show's heavyhanded reliance on national stereotypes and the show, blown up to screen size, is a gassy business. The choppy editing, omitting chunks of action, doesn't help."[13] Greg Tozian of The Tampa Tribune called it "simply a terrible movie", and noted that only four other people were in attendance of the screening he saw it in.[14] David Mucci of The Lexington Leader said that "To truly enjoy the film, the viewer must be a Sammy Davis, Jr. fan and appreciate the type of musical experience he delivers. Otherwise, when Sammy belts the final song, What Kind Of Fool Am I?, that’s exactly what the paying customer is going to be asking."[15] These sentiments were echoed in The Courier-Journal by Owen Hardy, who also called it "a boring, tasteless, offensive display of almost total non-talent."[16] Janet Maslin of The New York Times said that "this version of Stop the World features a gaudy set, a few uneasy references to current events, and floppy, ill-fitting costumes on everybody but Mr. Davis, who wears a silky sweater and pants but no jewelry, because he is supposed to start out poor"; she concluded the review by saying that "music, mime and merriment are in abundant supply—all the ingredients of a perfectly nice evening at a Dinner Theater in a suburb somewhere. Except for the dinner, that is."[17]

In 1996, a TV movie version was produced starring Peter Scolari as Littlechap and Stephanie Zimbalist as Evie.[18] Made for the A&E Network,[19] it adhered closely to the format of the original stage production.



Role Original London production Original Broadway production[20] 1963 US national tour[21] 1978 Broadway revival[22] 1989 London revival
Littlechap Anthony Newley Joel Grey Sammy Davis Jr. Anthony Newley
Evie, Anya, Isle, Ginnie Anna Quayle Julie Newmar Marian Mercer Rhonda Burchmore
Jane (Littlechap's Daughter) Jennifer Baker Janet Allman Shelly Burch
Susan (Littlechap's Daughter) Susan Baker Jennifer Allman Wendy Edmead
Greek Chorus
  • Amanda Bayley
  • Barbara Halliwell
  • Gloria Johnson
  • Carole Keith
  • Virginia Mason
  • Vivienne St George
  • Marti Webb
  • Robert O'Leary
  • Rawley Bates
  • Bonnie Brody
  • Diana Corto
  • Jo-Anne Leeds
  • Karen Lynn Reed
  • Sylvia Tysick
  • Stephanie Winters
  • Mark Hunter
  • Paul Rufo
  • Mark Month
  • Michael Month
  • Karen Hopper
  • Karen Johnson
  • Sherry Lambert
  • Geri O’Gorman
  • Shelley Payton
  • Audrey Saxon
  • Beverlee Weir
  • Brooke Winsten
  • Dennis Daniels
  • Karen Giombetti
  • Patrick Kinser-Lau
  • Edwetta Little
  • Donna Lowe
  • Debora Materson
  • Joyce Nolen
  • Charles Willis Jr.
  • Fiona Alexandra
  • Dollie Henry
  • Julia Howson
  • Samantha Hughes
  • Kim Ismay
  • Victoria Lynson
  • Emma Priest
  • Wendy Schoemann
  • Martine Mccutcheon
  • Denis Outen
  • Chase Marks
  • Melissa Farmery
  • Laura Tristram
  • Rowan Logan

London replacements[edit]

Littlechap: Tony Tanner

Evie, Anya, Isle, Ginnie: Millicent Martin

Broadway replacements[edit]

Littlechap: Joel Grey, Kenneth Nelson

Notable national tour replacements[edit]

Littlechap: Kenneth Nelson

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1963 Tony Award[23] Best Musical Nominated
Best Author Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley Nominated
Best Composer and Lyricist Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Anthony Newley Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Anna Quayle Won


  1. ^ Levant, Oscar (1969). The Unimportance of Being Oscar. Pocket Books. p. 6. ISBN 0-671-77104-3.
  2. ^ "Stop the World, I Want to Get Off (Original London Cast)". Cast Album DB.
  3. ^ "Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: July 20". Playbill. 20 July 2021. Retrieved 12 August 2022.
  4. ^ "Stop the World, I Want to Get Off (Original Broadway Cast)". Cast Album DB.
  5. ^ "Stop the World, I Want to Get Off (Broadway Revival Cast)". Cast Album DB.
  6. ^ "Sammy Stops the World (1979)". IMDb.
  7. ^ Hunt, Dennis (24 September 1979). "Sammy Davis Jr. as Littlechap". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 19 November 2023.
  8. ^ McElfresh, Tom (24 September 1979). "'Sammy' Bombs On All Fronts". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved 19 November 2023.
  9. ^ Clark, Michael (27 September 1979). "Movies clean house, and viewers get the junk". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 19 November 2023.
  10. ^ Trussell, Robert C. (26 September 1979). "Sammy Davis Film Dull In All Respects". The Kansas City Star. Retrieved 19 November 2023.
  11. ^ Howard, Edwin (22 September 1979). "'Stop the World' Doesn't". Memphis Press Scimitar. Retrieved 19 November 2023.
  12. ^ Baltake, Joe (24 September 1979). "'Stop' is Bad Screen Show". Philadelphia Daily News. Retrieved 19 November 2023.
  13. ^ Leogrande, Ernest (21 September 1979). "An unnecessary rehash of 1961". Daily News. New York City, New York, United States. Retrieved 19 November 2023.
  14. ^ Tozian, Greg (25 September 1979). "'Sammy' Stops the World; Viewers Get Off". The Tampa Tribune. Retrieved 19 November 2023.
  15. ^ Mucci, David (22 September 1979). "'Sammy' has rhyme, no reason". The Lexington Leader. Retrieved 19 November 2023.
  16. ^ Hardy, Owen (22 September 1979). "Sammy Davis should have stopped this filmed show before it started". The Courier-Journal. Louisville, Kentucky, United States. Retrieved 19 November 2023.
  17. ^ Maslin, Janet (21 September 1979). "Screen: Sammy Davis". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 November 2023.
  18. ^ "Stop the World, I Want to Get Off (TV Movie 1996)". IMDb.
  19. ^ Horowitz, Lisa D. (7 March 1996). "Review: Stop the World, I Want to Get Off". Variety. Retrieved 12 August 2022.
  20. ^ "Stop the World – I Want to Get Off – Broadway Musical – Original". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 4 January 2022.
  21. ^ "Stop the World – I Want to Get Off – Broadway musical – Tour". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 4 January 2022.
  22. ^ "Stop the World – I Want to Get Off – Broadway Musical – 1978 revival". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 4 January 2022.
  23. ^ "Nominations / 1963". TonyAwards.com. Retrieved 12 August 2022.

External links[edit]