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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Animal Crackers

Animal Crackers
Music & Lyrics by Bert Kalmar & Harry Ruby
Book by George S. Kaufman & Marrie Ryskind
Directed by Ron Schneider
Musical Direction by Robin Jensen
Starring Jeffrey Todd Parrott, Chris Metz, and Adam Scharf
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL

Hurray for Captain Spalding! (Parrott) even if his timing is a little off. The Marx Brothers ruled the film comedy of the early talkie days. Their acts were honed by years of touring the Vaudeville circuit, and their gags still ring true as they spear the wealthy and pretentious. Captain Jeffery T. Spaulding just returned from Africa, and wealthy Mrs. Rittenhouse (Karel Wright) is fêting him in her mansion. Pompous painter M. Doucette (Matt Horohoe) brought along a value painting that is his only asset, and upstart John Parker (Adam Reilly) hopes to make a name for himself in the art world with his copy of the painting. Small time grafters Chico (Chris Metz) and Harpo (Adam Scharf) are here to entertain and steal whatever they can while all the young women (Heather Copp, and Margaret Cross) and are set on marrying whoever has the most cash.

The spirit of the film is still here with its parody of the rich and pretentious, the poor and pretentious and the gold diggers of either sex. Parrott’s Spaulding was good but not always on time with his gags. Opposite him we find the stolid Karel Wright as Mrs. Rittenhouse; she’s as good a Margret Dumont as I’ve ever seen. Both Chico and Harpo nail the physical comedy, although they are never convincing as the ethnic stereotypes of the original. Other excellent performers come from Mr. Horohoe as the scoop-hunting newsman Wally Winston and Brian Chambers as the butler Hives.

This IS a musical, and a small band sits off to stage left. “Hooray for Captain Spaulding/Hello I Must be Going” and “Show Me a Rose” prove Mr. Parrott can sing, and there’s a great chemistry on “Three Little Words” between Arabella (Copp) and Wally. There’s a few extra songs tossed in before intermission, my favorite was “Keep Your Undershirt On”. It is possible to blow the timing on a Marx Brothers show, but this performance makes it all work. True, the gags are nearly 100 years old, but star worship and the foibles of the rich never lose their sparkle.

For more information on Mad Cow, please visit http://www.madcowtheatre.com

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