By William Wolf


With the press of shows opening for regular runs, I haven’t been able to cover the 2010 New York Musical Theatre Festival, but I did attend one particular (since-ended) production, much to my delight. “The Most Ridiculous Thing You Ever Hoid,” with book and lyrics by Andy Seiler, book, music and lyrics by Jim Beckerman, and book By Fred Wemyss (what a stew!), is an exuberant ode to the Marx Brothers. It is based on the “Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel” radio series that brought the hilarious brothers to listeners in 1932.The series itself was written by Nat Perrin, Arthur Sheekman, George Oppenheimer and Tom McKnight.

With the stage set to resemble a studio, the madcap comedy of the brothers erupted as one might hope. First and foremost, Erik Liberman made a hilariously impressive Groucho playing William T. Flywheel. He has the look, the leer, the walk and above all the attitude that Groucho fans revere. It is not merely an imitation. Liberman virtually becomes the legendary wise-cracking entertainer, whom he has down pat.

But he was not alone in standing out. Jonathan Randell Silver as Ringling T. Ringling became a delightful replica of Harpo, with the task of providing the wild sound effects radio required. As for Chico, dubbed Fiorllo Ravelli, Jared Miller added to the illusion that we were watching the real guys.

Staged and directed by Donald Brenner, the musical also had an excellent performance by Liliane Klein as Mrs. Van Regal, who, of course, resembled the venerable Margaret Dumont. John Fico played the Announcer, Warren Freeman the romantic singer Carlyle and Ashley Fox Linton and Michelle Pruiett rounded out the radio contingent as Kitty and Miss Dimple. Apart from the specific Marx characters, everyone pitched in as part of an appealing ensemble that combined to capture the radio days atmosphere.

There were numerous enjoyable numbers, such as “Mr. Flywheel Never Lost a Case,” “Here He Comes,” “Babes in Baghdad,” “You Are the Man for Me,” “My Song” and “Slimy Rhythm.” This is a small musical, but the effect at Urban Stages made it seem larger, probably because it was so much fun. Let’s not forget the lively band, including musical director and writer-composer-lyricist Jim Beckerman on keyboard, David Ross on drums and Dominick Zarrillo on bass.

This has been an ongoing project and I think it deserves to be further honed into a substantial regular run that will display its creativity and reach a wider audience. The brothers have been memorialized on stage in “Minnie’s Boys.” But this show reaches back nostalgically to the days of radio as well. And unless we can dig up Groucho himself, Erik Liberman will do. Reviewed at Urban Stages, 239 West 30th Street.


[Film] [Theater] [Cabaret] [About Town] [Wolf]
[Special Reports] [Travel] [HOME]