Washington, DC's Arena Stage opens its revival of the Marx Brothers musical, Animal Crackers, April 7 for a run through May 30. Performances began March 26.
Written in 1928 by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind for the Marx Brothers, Animal Crackers follows the comic mayhem that ensues when Captain Spalding and a gang of misfits invade the home of Long Island socialite Mrs. Rittenhouse. Animal Crackers was performed at Arena Stage in 1982.
Kaufman, who authored more than 40 plays from 1920-1955, co-authored Of Thee I Sing (1930) with Ryskind for which they were awarded a Pulitzer Prize. With Moss Hart, Kaufman created Once in a Lifetime, You Can't Take It With You and his second Pulitzer Prize winner, The Man Who Came To Dinner.
Playing the four Marx Brothers are Frank Ferrante (Captain Spalding aka Groucho), Les Marsden (the Professor aka Harpo), Jerold Goldstein (Emmanuel Ravelli aka Chico) and Neal Mayer (Horatio Jamison aka Zeppo). Actor-director-playwright Ferrante originated the off-Broadway title role in Groucho: A Life in Revue for which he was nominated for a Laurence Oliver award and Outer Critics Circle Award and won a Theatre World Award. Marsden was nominated for an Oliver and London Critics Award for his dual role of Harpo and Chico in Groucho: A Life in Revue and has played Harpo in Animal Crackers at the Goodspeed Opera House and the Paper Mill Playhouse. Goldstein most recently toured the country in the national tour of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum with Rip Torn. Mayer comes to Animal Crackers from New York's Forbidden Broadway Strikes Back!.
Also in the cast are Celia Tackaberry (Off-Broadway's The Cocoanuts), Jeanna Schweppe, Brigid Cleary, Mary Fortuna, Brooks Ashmanskas (Little Me, Dream), John Scherer (Sunset Boulevard), Lawrence Redmond, Cathy Carey, Lisa Marie Cline, Maria Francesconi, Kristie Dale Sanders (The Sound of Music), Michael W. Howell and Joseph Knight. In the ensemble are Kimberly Breault, Anne Hawthorne, Erin Malloy, Candice Michael, Marisa Rozek, Hayes Bergman, Parker Esse, Shawn Christopher, Gregory Daniels and Derric Harris. Johanna Gerry and Michael J. Bobbitt are the swings. Resident director Douglas C. Wager directs. Baayork Lee, the original Connie Wong in A Chorus Line, choreographs.
The production team includes Zack Brown (sets and costumes), Allen Lee Hughes (lighting), Susan R. White (sound) and George Fulginiti-Shakar (musical director and conductor). Martha Knight is the stage manger.
Tickets ($50-$29) are available by calling the box office at (202) 488 3300. The Arena Stage is located at 1101 6th Street, S.W.
-- By Christine Ehren