- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2003

Alexander (Jeremy Goldman) may be convinced that moving is wrong, but there are so many things right about the new musical based on his misgivings, titled “Alexander Who’s Not Not Not Not Not Not Going to Move.”

The team of writer Judith Viorst and composer Shelly Markham, who lent such dexterity and charm to the 1998 musical “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” is back and better than ever in this thoroughly enjoyable children’s show.

Director Nick Olcott returns as well, having directed both the original “Alexander” musical and the national touring show. Mr. Olcott knows how to engage children and keep them enraptured, coming up with myriad ways to stimulate their senses as well as their funny bones.

He and Miss Viorst have contrived bits in the show to get the children involved, whether it is counting to 20 or shouting out the title at key moments in the play.

That means the hourlong show is a treat for both the youngsters and their elders. There was not one smidgen of restlessness during the weekend matinee, and any veteran of children’s theater can tell you that is nothing shy of a miracle.

This time around, Alexander’s father (Jefferson A. Russell) has accepted a new job that will take the family “thousands of miles away” from the only home Alexander has ever known. His older brothers, Anthony (R. Scott Thompson) and Nick (Sherri Linton), are more resigned and are packing up their rooms. Alexander, however, stubbornly insists he’s not going. He tries to hide, tries to ingratiate himself in the neighbors’ houses, tries to buy time. But his patient Mom (Kate Kiley) says he has to move with the rest of the family and suggests he go around the neighborhood and say goodbye.

The gist of the seven-song musical deals with Alexander bidding farewell to the dry cleaner who saves the schmutz he finds in Alexander’s pockets, the grumbly grocer, the folks next door, and all of his friends. You can’t help but get a lump in your throat when Alexander says goodbye to Paul (Wendell Jordan), who gives him a “Best Friend” baseball cap as a keepsake.

Perhaps the most sloppily joyous parting is with Swoozie (Mr. Jordan again), the rambunctious dog, who exhibits Snoopy-like tendencies in his song-and-dance number — complete with a dog dish for a top hat and a bone for a cane — “A Dog’s Best Friend Is His Boy.”

Other standout songs include “Girls Can Do Anything,” a ditty about grrrl power set to a ‘60s girl group Motown beat; a plaintive ballad about how Alexander will be remembered (unfortunately, it may be for stepping in doggie doo at a neighborhood birthday party), and the title song, in which Alexander proclaims, “You can drop a spider down my underwear/but I’m not going anywhere.” In the end, Alexander learns that ultimately, home is where your family is.

The cast members, with the exception of the affecting Mr. Goldman as Alexander, take on the various roles with energy and imagination. Joe Musumeci’s simple and effective set uses wooden storage crates to stand in for the various houses in Alexander’s neighborhood, while Rosemary Pardee’s loose and bright costumes nicely keep the cast from looking like adults in tyke drag.

“Alexander Who’s Not …” may not be the most sophisticated show around, but its honesty and forthright good humor make it a shiny addition to the holiday season.

***1/2

WHAT: “Alexander Who’s Not Not Not Not Not Not Going to Move,” book and lyrics by Judith Viorst, music by Shelly Markham

WHERE: Kennedy Center Theater Lab through Dec, 14, Kennedy Center Terrace Theater Dec. 19 through 29

WHEN: Dec. 5 and 12 at 7 p.m.; Dec. 13 at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.; Dec. 14 at 1 p.m.; Dec. 19 at 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 27, 28 and 29 at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m.;

TICKETS: $14

PHONE: 202/467-4600

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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