WILLIAMSTOWN -- Actress Renée Elise Goldsberry typically doesn't consider roles that will pull her away from her family, but the opportunity to appear in the musical comedy "Animal Crackers" and the Williamstown Theatre Festival's family-friendly reputation were enough to lure her to the Berkshires.
"I have a husband and 4-year-old son. As long as I have the luxury of not separating my family, I don't," Goldsberry said during a recent interview at the theater. "Typically, when these things come up, I don't even think about it. WTF is synonymous with family and it's close to New York City. [Artistic Director] Jenny Gersten and [Producer] Stephen Kaus really went out of their way to make sure that I could have the best of both worlds -- my family and this wonderful show, so I'm very happily here."
She added, "It's my first time at Williamstown, but I have a lot of friends who talk about the festival with a lot of great affection all of the time. Not only [do they talk] about how wonderful it is for them professionally and artistically, but even personally. I have a lot of friends who met their husbands here or decided to have children while here, because this town is so family friendly. It's hard to be here and not think about having your own family here."
Goldsberry is part of a nine-member cast portraying 21 roles in new interpretation of the Marx Brothers' family-friendly musical comedy, "Animal Crackers," which opens tonight on the Main Stage.
The musical comedy features a slapstick search for a painting pilfered during a high society soiree. Playing the iconic trio of the Marx Brothers are Joey Slotnick ("Nip/Tuck") as Groucho; Jonathan Brody as Chico, and Brad Aldous ("Boardwalk Empire") as Harpo. Slotnick and Brody performed alongside each other as Groucho and Chico in the critically-acclaimed 2009 production of the musical at The Goodman Theatre.
"I have three parts, fewer than some [of the cast] but that's the fun of it," she said, noting the original version of the musical has 68 parts. "I play Mary, who is a very sweet small-town ingenue; Grace, who is the exact opposite, which is always fun. She's one of the foils and a self-described nasty disposition. Then I play Girl A, who does a lot of getting chased around by Harpo."
Goldsberry, who has starred in the Broadway musicals, "The Lion King," "Rent" and "The Color Purple," recently appeared on television in "The Following" with Kevin Bacon, and also has a reoccurring role on "The Good Wife."
"Fortunately, there's a lot of television that shoots in New York, but I'm a music theater girl. I haven't done music theater in a while. I started doing classical plays, new plays, really wonderful plays," she said. "I haven't done musical theater in a while and I had just said that to myself when this opportunity came up. There truly is no better music theater fix than doing this production. It's a celebration of music theater comedy at its height. It's musical theater comedy on steroids. It's packed with every thing I've missed."
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What: ‘Animal Crackers,' adapted and directed by Henry Wishcamper
Where: Williamstown Theatre Festival's Main Stage
When: Today through July 14
Run time: Roughly 2 hours
Book: George S. Kaufman, Morrie Ryskind
Music and lyrics: Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby
Cast: Brad Aldous, Adam Chanler-Berat, Jonathan Brody, Mara Davi, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Eilen Harvey, Jacob Ming-Trent, Joey Slotnick, Joey Sorge
Tickets: www.wtfestival.org, 413- 458-3400, ‘62 Center for Theatre and Dance Box Office, Williams College, 1000 Main St., Williamstown