Hooray for Capt. Spaulding! Milwaukee's Skylight Feasts on Animal Crackers

News   Hooray for Capt. Spaulding! Milwaukee's Skylight Feasts on Animal Crackers Taking a page from its past hit production of The Cocoanuts, a 1928 vehicle originally featuring the Marx Brothers, Skylight Opera Theatre in Milwaukee is staging Animal Crackers — remembered as another hit for the Marx boys — Nov. 25-Dec. 18.

Skylight artistic director Bill Theisen will direct the staging, which features three of the four actors who appeared in the Skylight hit revival of The Cocoanuts in 1991. Principal conductor Richard Carsey will music direct the score by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby. Expect such classics as "Three Little Words" and "I Wanna Be Loved By You."

Linda Stephens, the respected Milwaukee actress known nationally for The Public Theater's musical Wings and Broadway's Damn Yankees revival, stars in the Margaret Dumont role of Mrs. Rittenhouse in Animal Crackers. She gets a choice counterpoint section with Groucho in "I Wanna Be Loved by You"/"Show Me a Rose." The former by Kalmar & Ruby has been added to the Skylight staging, the latter was always a part of the licensable property.

Theisen and Carsey also added Irving Berlin's "Monkey Doodle Doo" into the mix.

Performances play Skylight Opera Theatre's intimate horseshoe-shaped home, the Cabot Theatre of the Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway located in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward.

Theisen, who became artistic director at Skylight in recent years, said whenever Skylight's The Cocoanuts is mentioned to theatregoers there, faces light up. "The audiences here really, really love the '20s and '30s musicals," Theisen told Playbill.com. "From the beginning of the Skylight, 40 odd years ago, they did Bitter Sweet, Leave It to Jane, Very Good Eddie…they've been a staple of the Skylight. I'm looking at [shows from that era] to see what fits our season and what fits our talent."

In 1991, Kalmar and Ruby's The Cocoanuts became one of the most popular shows in Skylight history. Animal Crackers — about a valuable sculpture that turns up missing at a party and how characters created by Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo seek it out — is a trademark, zany Marx Brothers comedy with a book by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind. The score includes the song that became Groucho's signature tune, "Hooray for Captain Spaulding." The Broadway hit became a better-known film that the American Film Institute considers it one of the 100 most quoted movies of all time.

Reprising their 1991 Skylight roles as the Marx Brothers are Norman Moses as Groucho, Ray Jivoff as Harpo and Mark David Kaplan as Chico. Benjamin Howes will join them as Zeppo. The cast also includes Liz Baltes, Beth Johnstone Bush, David Flores, Toni Inzeo, Christopher Klopatek, Kathleen A. Miller, Robert Spencer, Nathan Wesselowski, Logan Marie Adams, Justin Deehr, Beth Mulkerron, Eric Nelson, Kristen Pawlowski, Johnny Townsend and Sarah Wilbur.

The production team includes choreographer Pam Kriger, scenic designer Kenneth S. Goldstein, costume designer Barry Link, lighting designer Annmarie Duggan and sound designer Mikhail Moore.

For information, visit the Skylight's web site at www.skylightopera.com.