Drama debuts musical comedy ‘Animal Crackers’

Camille Kawawa-Beaudan

Redwood’s EPiC production company kicked off their season with the musical “Animal Crackers” on Wednesday, Oct. 8.

The first of nine plays to be produced by EPiC this year, “Animal Crackers” is also the first Marx brothers show that Redwood students have performed.

Produced by the Marx brothers and released in 1930, the musical focuses on one crazy night, when a famous explorer of Africa named Captain Spaulding (played by Matthew Carrasco) attends a party held by Mrs. Rittenhouse (Gabby Manuela). Chaos ensues when two guests at the party attempt to steal a famous statue, “After the Hunt,” by French artist Beaugard, and replace it with their respective replicas.

Junior Naina Vyas, senior Nick Schwager, and junior Stephanie Poore rehearse on Oct. 7 for Animal Crackers. The show, which opened Oct. 8, is the first Marx brothers show that Redwood has ever performed.
Junior Naina Vyas, senior Nick Schwager, and junior Stephanie Poore rehearse on Oct. 7 for Animal Crackers. The show, which opened Oct. 8, is the first Marx brothers show that Redwood has ever performed.

Famous for their comedy acts between 1905 and 1949, the Marx brothers worked together on plays and films, receiving critical acclaim for their work and getting five of their 13 films named in the American Film Institute’s top 100 comedy films. Although all five brothers were comedians, only three–Chico, Harpo, and Groucho–developed distinct, in-depth persona whom they impersonated whenever they were on stage. Zeppo, who also starred in “Animal Crackers,” was known as the straight-man, or the character who wasn’t funny. Two of the brothers, Gummo and Zeppo, later dropped comedy to pursue other careers.

Embracing the Marx brothers’ stage characters, EPiC added a double layer to their production. Matthew Carrasco, Kenneth Wong, Sam Abrahams, and James Harding portray the Marx brothers themselves, not the roles the Marx brothers played in the production.

“We are portraying the actual Marx brothers, not the characters they were. We’re playing the roles that they portrayed in their everyday life,” Carrasco said. “Groucho Marx created a character that he wanted to be, and he portrayed that character in every single thing that he did. My job is to portray everything that he did, so I’m basically portraying Groucho Marx.”

Seniors Gabriela Manuela and Brendan Mahoney rehearse their lines at a dress rehearsal on Tuesday, Oct. 7.
Seniors Gabriela Manuela and Brendan Mahoney rehearse their lines at a dress rehearsal on Tuesday, Oct. 7.

The lead actors of “Animal Crackers” began rehearsals during the summer.

“We learned to portray the Marx brothers. We worked with a guest artist,” Carrasco said. “We worked for about two weeks in summer, then we got everyone else involved.”

All the preparation for the musical paid off, as “Animal Crackers” turned out to be a confusing yet funny and cheesy musical, according to senior Lucretia King, who plays Grace Carpenter.

“Our songs are very funny and have a lot of high energy and are very fast,” King said.

“Animal Crackers” will be performed on Oct. 15, 16, and 17 at 7:30 p.m., as well as on Oct. 18 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.