Monday, August 31, 2009

Hooray, hooray, hooray!

Posted by Molly Brennan (The Professor)

Sunday night rehearsal:

Tonight's only four hours, some Equity thing, “Daylight Rest,” I guess. I don't know. I'm new to Equity. Nearly 40, and having made my actor living thus far without joining the guild, I'm a bit behind in terms of how this whole union thing works.

I'd spent the day rehearsing something altogether different. I went out to Oak Park to sing the songs from 500 Clown and the Elephant Deal with Mr. John Fournier. I was comfortable snarling and staggering and weaving my way around Fournier's basement, belting out his hilarious lyrics in preparation for our appearance at Petterino's in a couple weeks. THAT'S what I'm used to.

But Sunday night is at the Goodman. THE GOODMAN. An involuntary grin or involuntary nausea makes an appearance whenever I think about it. We're running Act II, according to the call. It's shorter in runtime compared to Act I, but more complicated for me in terms of The Professor's prop sets, sleight of hand, changing into a chorus girl, etc.

I had run my beats at home, trying to remember my dance steps to the “Harp Ballet” so I don't break Mara Davi's face with my foot, and I STILL can't get the “Long Island Lowdown” steps: standing up onto the chaise with the uke, getting the “Three Musketeers” number down, etc, etc.

"Don't screw it up, Brennan," I tell myself on my bike ride from the Ukrainian Village to 170 N. Dearborn. I pull up to the theater and see my face HUGE on the marquee between two of my three Marx brothers: Jonathan Brody and Joey Slotnick. "Your face is all over town. DO NOT stink," I tell myself.

I walk in ready for action. As always, I get a little nervous entering that rehearsal room. Everyone is at the top of their game. Stage management is impeccable, the musical director Doug Peck is precise and positive, the cast is PRO. Half New York, half Chicago, everyone FANTASTIC. Paul Kalina, my 500 Clown brother, partner, friend is the Clown Director for this show, and my lifeline to reality. (Or MY reality...which may be unrecognizable by some standards...)

Chicago star Ora Jones gives me a mock scolding look for having missed the cast's brunch at m. henry. Mara, whose energy and talent are matched by her appetite fills me in on what was ordered and eaten. Thank goodness they got the bliss cakes and the Fannie's egg sandwich. Jessie Mueller missed brunch, too, and promises she had her sprained ankle elevated. As long as she doesn't sprain her golden vocal cords, we're good. Enter the handsome Fred Astaire incarnate Tony Yazbeck and we're met. Really? These are the people I'm working with every day? What am I doing here? Heavens!

The ever calm, clear and organized Joe Drummond calls us to order, and our director Henry Wishcamper speaks.

Henry is awesome. What a leader. The type of leader I want to follow. His voice only rises in volume when he is excited about what we're doing. And years fall off when he gleefully gives us fun and funny and beautiful things to do onstage. He becomes a kid. He is also thoughtful, intelligent and a good listener. I want to make him happy. I think we all feel that way.

So, Henry speaks. Solemnly. My apologies for not remembering his exact words, but to paraphrase:

"I decided instead of running Act II tonight, we'd drink beers and watch Marx Brothers’ movies."

A cheer rises. Ed Kross bounds forward to hug Henry. I'm still figuring it's a joke until I see the actual beer, the actual TV and DVD player, and am eating the actual organic chocolate truffles Broadway veteran Stanley Mathis has brought for us.

The lights go down, and I sit with Paul and Ora and the rest of this unique and massively talented cast and crew, and we laugh and clap together through Night at the Opera and Day at the Races, inspired by the genius of these long-ago artists.

We are working very hard on Animal Crackers, picking up new skills, playing multiple characters, singing, dancing, prat falling. What a perfect way to spend our evening rehearsal, celebrating together, and learning from the folks we are playing in this refreshed version of a classic film and play.

I am lucky. Lucky, lucky, lucky.

I'm enjoying the work we're doing now, and look forward to September 18, to play with these amazing folks to a packed house.

Hooray, hooray, hooray!


Molly B

Photos of Molly Brennan and Henry Wishcamper in rehearsal by Eric Y. Exit.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Animal Crackers Rehearsal Began Today!

Hooray for Captain Spaulding!

When a celebrated painting goes missing from Mrs. Rittenhouse's fancy house party in honor of African explorer Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding, her guests set out to find the thief in a series of madcap antics and exploits. Based on the original Marx Brothers' Broadway hit and film classic, the Goodman's contemporary adaptation of Animal Crackers is an outrageous rollicking, laugh-out-loud musical comedy.

Rehearsals began TODAY!

(l to r) Molly Brennan (The Professor/Harpo), Jonathan Brody (Emanuel Ravelli/Chico), Ed Kross (Horatio Jamison/Zeppo) and Joey Slotnick (Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding/Groucho)

(l to r) Jonathan Brody (Emanuel Ravelli/Chico), Stanley Wayne Mathis (Hives/Roscoe W. Chandler) and Molly Brennan (The Professor/Harpo)

(l to r) Tony Yazbeck (Wally Winston/M. Doucet) and Mara Davi (Arabella Rittenhouse/Mrs. Whitehead)

Photos by Eric Y. Exit.

Want to see more photos of the talented cast in rehearsal? Click here!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Go Behind the Scenes with the Cast of Animal Crackers

Hooray for Captain Spaulding! Go behind the scenes with the cast of Animal Crackers, an outrageous, hilarious audience favorite based on the original Marx Brothers’ Broadway hit and film classic—with an original Goodman twist!

We welcome you to join the conversation. Feel free to respond to our artists—or post your own thoughts about Animal Crackers.

We'll see you at the theater!