Theater Review: 'I'll Say She Is'

Apparently, forgotten hits from 1920s Broadway are big these days. Uptown at the Music Box, George C. Wolfe has done a remarkable reconstruction of the breakthrough musical ‘"Shuffle Along." Two miles south on East 4th Street, a gang of chorus girls, clowns and musicians has raised the antic, anarchic spirit of the Marx Brothers in a daffy revival of "I’ll Say She Is." If you've never heard of it, you’re not alone.

Viewed by Marx aficionados as the show that put Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo on the road to Hollywood, since their next two musicals were adapted for celluloid, 'I’ll Say She Is' like the majority of tuners from that decade: a hotch-potch of Ziegfeld Follies–type acts, slapstick and Tin Pan Alley songs, strung together by the thinnest of plotlines.

The difference here, of course, is the stars. After years trouping in vaudeville, the Marx Brothers had amassed a uniquely brilliant skillset: the distinct goofball personas, Harpo’s virtuosic wordless clowning, Chico’s whatsamatta-for-you patter and Groucho’s genius for one-liners. When their schticks crossed, it was comedy gold.

Amanda Sisk’s scruffy but lovable production has oodles of hey-kids-let’s-put-on-a-show enthusiasm and a wickedly talented foursome: Seth Shelden as Harpo, Matt Roper as Chico, Matt Walters as straight man Zeppo and Noah Diamond as a dryly hilarious Groucho.

For a nostalgic good time on a hot summer night, you can’t beat it. After nearly a century, is she still sassy, swoony and full of laughs? I’ll Say She Is. 

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