Archikulture Digest

Day in Hollywood A Night in the Ukraine

A Day in Hollywood A Night in the Ukraine

Book and Lyric by Dick Vosburgh

Music by Frank Lazarus

Directed by Michael Edwards

Musical Direction by Chris Leavy

Choreographed by Roy Alan

Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL</strong>

Am I this old already? The Marx Brothers were a big part of my early culture; I met their films on black and white TV in glorious 511 line NTCS. Then in college I saw “Animal Crackers” in a real theater and realized Groucho’s mustache and eyebrows were just grease paint. That overlays a sense of nostalgia in this look at those early days of Hollywood when TV and the internet were still sci-fi and a movie house was the only air conditioning in in town.

This two part show starts in Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard; it’s a palace of dreams and ushers and spilled popcorn. The entertainment focuses on the tunes and taps of the era, with titles like “Cocktails for Two” and “The Good Ship Lollipop” sounding much better than they should courtesy of Zach Nadolski, Bert Rodriguez, and Lourelene Snedeker. Tap is always a bit hard to see if you’re in the back rows of this house, and tonight a pair of mysterious feet dances on a cat walk above the stage. It’s amazing how many old time MGM stars I could recognize from just their shoes. Never underestimate shoes; they do so much more than keep your feet dry. Mr. Nadolski and Jill Vanderoef gave us a touching “Thanks For the Memories” and the troupe (including Roy Alan and BambiEllen Fadoul) joined together for “Beyond the Blue Horizon.” But then they all got together to tap out the “Production Code” just before intermission; they all ended up too sweaty to appear on film.

Act Two stepped up to parody a fictitious but totally reasonable Marx Brothers movie: “A Night in the Ukraine.” The title was chosen long before the Ukraine became the Armageddon of the week and Groucho (Alan) gives us a quick plot synopsis: Mrs. Pavlenko (Snedeker as Margaret Dumont) is a new widow and she’s getting ready to attend her first post-widowhood social event. Mr. Samovar (Groucho/Allan) shows up to collect on a debt and make sexually suggestive comments; his coach driver (Constantine as Zeppo) successfully picks her daughter Nina and they go off to Russian marred bliss. Comic relief comes from Chico’s (Rodriguez) broken English and Harpo’s (Fadoul) sexually suggestive pantomime. Yes, there IS a harp solo but it’s played on a bicycle and is mercifully short. Groucho flicks his tux tails and sings as Gino hands women his thigh. Why? Because it looks funny. There’s good stuff here; a bit old fashioned from time to time, a bit silly other times, but the Marx Brothers pushed the dread Hayes code as far as possible. Then it was racy, today it’s just fun.

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