Marxonia celebration set for Fredonia 1891 Opera House

“Animal Crackers” stars the four Marx Brothers and will be shown Thursday at the Fredonia Opera House.

The 1891 Fredonia Opera House Performing Arts Center will present two events as part of the State University of New York at Fredonia’s annual Freedonia Marxonia celebration. “Animal Crackers,” the Marx Brothers’ 1930 classic comedy, will be screened on Thursday at 7 p.m. The following evening, Friday, noted Marx Brothers expert Noah Diamond will present an illustrated lecture titled If You Get Near a Song, Play It!: The Marx Brothers and Music at 7 p.m. Admission to both events is free.

“Animal Crackers” stars the four Marx Brothers – Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo. Groucho plays Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding, the African explorer, who returns from his adventures to great fanfare. The movie includes “Hurray for Captain Spaulding,” and “Hello, I Must Be Going,” two of the songs most associated with Groucho Marx.

It is the Marx Brothers’ second feature film, and is based on their 1928 Broadway musical of the same name. The script was written by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind. Music and lyrics were written by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby (who also composed “Hail Freedonia” for the Marx Brothers’ 1933 Duck Soup). The film was presented in Fredonia 92 years ago during its original October 1930 release at the Winter Garden Theatre, now the Opera House.

Music played a major role in the Marx Brothers’ careers. From Vaudeville to Broadway, and then in film, radio, and television, music was part of their performances. They played instruments masterfully and are associated with songs that remain in popular culture. Irving Berlin and Harold Arlen are examples of the renowned composers represented in the Marxes’ canon. Borrowing a quote from “Animal Crackers” for its title, Diamond’s If You Get Near a Song, Play It!: The Marx Brothers and Music looks at the connection between the influential classic comedy team and music, and promises to be informative and entertaining.

The presentation will be live-streamed from Diamond’s home in New York City and shown on the Opera House movie screen. It completes his trilogy of virtual programs: Freedonia Marxonia 2020 featured Home Again: The Marx Brothers and New York City, and 2021 featured There’s Nothing Like Liberty: The Marx Brothers and America.

Diamond was one of the organizers of New York City’s 2014 Marxfest; the creative force behind bringing the Marx Brothers’ 1924 musical I’ll Say She Is to the Off-Broadway stage in 2016; and writer and performer of 400 Years in Manhattan, an award-winning show at the 2019 United Solo Theatre Festival in New York. He is the author of the books Gimme a Thrill: The Story of I’ll Say She Is, the Lost Marx Brothers Musical, and How It Was Found; 400 Years in Manhattan; and Love Marches On.

In 2020, Diamond and Amanda Sisk wrote and produced Quarantigone, an online adaption of Sophocles’ Antigone.

He currently is a co-host of the Marx Brothers Council Podcast. Diamond presented his The Marx Brothers on Broadway: 1924-1929 at the Opera House as guest speaker for Freedonia Marxonia 2017, and created the aforementioned virtual programs for Freedonia Marxonia 2020 and 2021.

Diamond’s program is supported through the Carnahan-Jackson Humanities Fund and the Hahn Family Freedonia Marxonia Fund, both of the Fredonia College Foundation. Freedonia Marxonia, the annual festival that celebrates the Marx Brothers and their 1933 movie “Duck Soup,” set in “Freedonia,” is supported through the Hahn Family Freedonia Marxonia Fund.

The 1891 Fredonia Opera House Performing Arts Center is a member-supported not-for-profit performing arts center with a mission to “present the performing arts for the benefit of our community and region … providing access to artistic diversity … and high quality programming at an affordable price.” It is located in Village Hall in downtown Fredonia. For a complete schedule of events, visit www.fredopera.org.


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