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Marx Brothers go bonkers in Denver Center Theatre's 'Animal Crackers'

Michael Fitzpatrick as Chandler (Groucho Marx)
Michael Fitzpatrick as Chandler (Groucho Marx)
DCTC/Jennifer M. Koskinen

Animal Crackers

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The wacky humor of Groucho Marx and his brothers Harpo, Zeppo and Chico keep this funny farce afloat, which is what drew the audience in to begin with. That's not to say the singing and dancing of the Art Deco flapper-era musical isn't enjoyable; it is, quite. But where the show succeeds is keeping the audience guessing as to what nonsensical one-liners Groucho (Michael Fitzpatrick) will quip ("Ever since I met you, I've swept you off my feet") or what crazy antic the silent one, Harpo (Jonathan Randell Silver) will pull off, or what silly thing Chico (Jonathan Brody) with his Italian accent will say.

This remake of the 1928 play Animal Crackers starring the Marx Brothers is just as entertaining today as it was when the brothers were in their heyday. They became famous for the signature characters each developed and for their improvisations.

Nine actors play 29 different roles in this convoluted plot that revolves around a New York society maven unveiling a priceless painting at a weekend soiree for assorted guests. Rival socialites plot an art theft amidst couples falling in love, the art collector is revealed as a fraud, and bedlam ensues. Thanks to the lovebirds, a few sweet love duets take flight. The tunes won't stay in your head, but the tap dancing by Arabella (Christine Rowan) and Wally (Jeremy Benton) is quite impressive. A six-piece band plays right on the elegant mansion set, so it feels like a concert performance during the musical numbers. In between, the vaudevillian capers and calamities of the Marx Brothers keep the audience in stitches.

At the April 10 performance, a quick-thinking Fitzpatrick comes up with a classic Groucho improv exchange with man in the audience. He carries on with Chico on stage and says, "Apparently four weeks of rehearsal was not enough."

Each of the actors playing the brothers has an uncanny resemblance to the funny men: Groucho with his painted-on moustache and thick expressive eyebrows, Harpo with his curly blond hair and goofy smile, and Chico with his trademark immigrant clothes and Italian accent. They bring the brothers to back to life in spot-on performances.

Come ready to catch the rapid-fire wisecracks and outlandish antics in this highly entertaining musical comedy.

Don’t miss the tribute to the Marx Brothers in the lobby of the Bonfils Theatre.

Animal Crackers plays The Stage Theatre through May 11, 2014. Performances are at 6:30, Tuesday-Thursday; 7:30, Friday and Saturday; 1:30 Saturday and Sunday.

For tickets, visit www.denvercenter.org or call 303-446-4829.