Friday, September 18, 2009

Music and Comedy

Posted by Doug Peck (Animal Crackers Music Director)

Hello from Doug Peck, music director of Animal Crackers.

As we enter our fourth week of rehearsal, I have the privilege to accompany this virtuosic company as we drill comedy routines, stage dances and perfect everything from miming harp playing to working with bullwhips. Running between the two rehearsal rooms with these amazing nine actors feels like rehearsing a variety show!

The music in this piece functions differently than the music in a lot of my traditional theater work. Marrying the comedic moment onstage to the right underscoring, when appropriate, is a constant effort. And we are constantly discovering the charm of the music from the 1920s, which could be considered “naive.” The word "naive" often has a judgmental connotation, but it needn’t. As post-Hammerstein, post- Sondheim artists we are always striving for more in terms of storytelling and emotional events, but the songs in this production don't require that. They do, however, require exquisite vocalism, charm and grace—as well as killer arrangements.

Many of these gorgeous songs have fallen out of popularity, and I think the audience will be delighted to discover them. You will be surprised at just how much music is in the show, since the Marx Brothers’ movies tend to have long gaps between musical sequences. It is a complete joy to work with (director) Henry Wishcamper and the team on how best to adapt a film comedy into a stage musical without losing a drop of the fun.

We look forward to sharing Animal Crackers with the Goodman audiences, since comedy and music aren't complete without you!

See you at the theater,

Thursday, September 3, 2009

We Want to Hear from YOU!

Share your favorite Marx Brothers moment. The cast and crew of the Goodman’s laugh-out-loud musical comedy Animal Crackers share their own stories and want to YOU to join the conversation:

Joey Slotnick (Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding):

“I first saw the Marx Bros when I was in junior high school. My dad turned me onto them, and when Woody Allen referenced them I knew I was onto something. They are just plain funny—and complete anarchists! I'd have to say my favorite Marx Brothers’ movie is Duck Soup. It's the one I've seen the most times. But I also love Horse Feathers. Groucho has such an excellent song-and-dance number with all of the professors of the college watching him.”

Molly Brennan (The Professor):

“Gloria and Mike Stivic dressed as Harpo and Groucho for Halloween on All in the Family, and I thought Gloria was so funny. It was only when the VCR was invented that I saw Horsefeathers and Duck Soup, then I watched Day at the Races and Animal Crackers when I started working with 500 Clown. Now I’m playing The Professor in Animal Crackers—the part originally performed by Harpo Marx!”

Paul Kalina (Clowning Director):

“I grew up on the Marx Brothers. While I didn’t necessarily get the jokes, I heard my parents laugh at them, so I would laugh. That’s how I began to understand rhythm and comic timing and verbal repartee.”

We want to know all about YOUR favorite Marx Brothers moment! Post a comment below to share your story.