A good time was had by all last night at Noah Diamond’s “Marx Brothers on Broadway” talk at the Morbid Anatomy Museum, sponsored by Zelda Magazine. The capacity crowd was full of hard-core Marxian fans. The reason I know? This was far from a talk for beginners: this was about a lesser known phase of the comedy team’s career, and the crowd was fully engaged, laughed at the right parts, and asked knowledgeable questions. I always review the audience, and this one got an A grade.
Don Spiro, publisher and editor of Zelda, introduced the program:
Then came Noah:
Noah’s talk knocked my socks off. Apart from the content, it may have been the best, most artful and animated Powerpoint presentation I’ve ever seen. But the talk itself was fascinating, taking us all the way from the Marx Brothers later vaudeville days when they were expanding to tab musicals (and outgrowing them), through their three Broadway smashes, I’ll Say She Is, The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers. He spoke of the evolution of the team and their familiar characters and exploded many of the famous myths about them (e.g., the misrepresentation of Margaret Dumont as a clueless woman who didn’t get the Marxes’ humor, and the idea that the New York critics had never heard of the Marx Brothers until their Broadway debut). There was a humorous explication of the lyrics of “The Monkey Doodle Doo”. And, because yesterday happened to be the anniversary of Zeppo’s death, there was a moment of respectful contemplation of the much-maligned Marx, which initially provoked a guffaw, but turned out to be quite moving. He also did a purposely (and hilariously) mangled version of the usual capsule version of their history — a kind of inside joke for long time fans of the team.
Other special treats: video of the Napoleon scene from the recent revival of I’ll Say She Is, and performances of two scenes from the Broadway shows The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers which were cut from their movie versions, with Noah as Groucho of course, Matt Roper as Chico, Matt Walters as Zeppo, with Melody Jane and Kathy Biehl. Another special treat was a recorded rendition of the Animal Crackers song “Four of the Three Musketeers”, one of the great Marxian lost treasures. This was just the top of the iceberg really. Noah Diamond works very hard.
This talk was part of a regular series at the Morbid Anatomy Museum sponsored by Zelda. The next one is December 12, and the speaker will be my humble self, and my text will be “W.C. Fields: From Dime Museums to the Jazz Age“. I hope you can attend! Stay tuned!