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Theatre Review (LA): It’s Top Secret by Steven A. Munro and Dan W. Davis at the NoHo Arts Center

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It’s Top Secret is a pleasant musical meant primarily for kids, but there is enough there for the parents as well. Steven A. Munro and Dan W. Davis wrote this “Marx Brother’s” musical. The director/ choreographer is Robert Petrarca. The performance features a live orchestra lead by Paul Taylor. The cast consisted of Dan Wilson Davis (Milton/ Groucho), John Albert Price (Notelli/Chico)), Adam Miller (Lucky/Harpo), Dimitrri Toscas (Lydia/Margaret Dumont), Erin Daigle (on for Megan Campbell/Carol), Kyle Nudo (James the Nazi butler), Allene Quincy (Nazi maid), Stephen Vendette (Frank/the boyfriend), and John Welsh (murdered Lord Avendale).

The plot is very like all those famous movies but only occasionally hits it on the head. Of course, the plays on which the movies were based had American master George Kaufman on board but Munro and Davis do there best and Petrarca manages to get the actors to emulate the style. There are some missteps that could be corrected. First the love interest should be played straight. The Marx Brothers never made fun of them and the lovers were at the center of the storm of comedy. In It’s Top Secret the lovers are directed to be acted very broadly and really weren’t very funny.

The four actors playing the Marx Brothers, especially Dan Wilson Davis, have the style and characters down pretty well. The writers have given the "Groucho" character some great one-liners. The business though worked about half the time. Well the same might be said of the action in the movies; however, they were performed at breakneck speed, so they were over quickly and moved swiftly to the next bit of nonsense. Here the action is often too slow and even needs more rehearsal to get up to a workable speed.

There are only nine songs but they are quite pleasant. The set by David Goldstein worked very well, and the revolving library, with the Nazi radio set up on the other side, was terrific. Its Top Secret is part of the Festival of New American Musicals, now in it’s third year. The Festival is held from May 16th to August 21. The Festival is crammed full of full productions, staged readings, cabaret events, and concerts. The organizers work in concert with 30 Southern California area performing arts groups. It’s Top Secret plays from June 12th to July 13th on weekends at the NoHo Arts Center.

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