Northwestern alum’s musical revived in Chicago with new song


Credit: Austin Packard

Actors perform in Minnie’s Boys at Porchlight Music Theatre in Chicago, composed by Larry Grossman (Communication ‘60).

Janea Wilson, Reporter

Over 50 years ago, Larry Grossman (Communication ‘60) was writing music for Waa-Mu, an experience that would eventually lead him to pursue his passion and make his Broadway debut as a composer for “Minnie’s Boys” about a decade later. Now, just about five decades later, his premiere show has been revived in his hometown of Chicago.

“Minnie’s Boys” is a musical about vaudeville comedians, the Marx Brothers, and their relationship with their mother, Minnie, who pushed them to pursue their careers in comedy. The show was revived at Chicago’s Porchlight Music Theatre for a two-day special event on May 22 and 23. This marks the show’s first production in Chicago and features a new song, originally cut from the soundtrack, that Grossman had always liked. He said he presented the song at a reading of the musical a couple months ago and said the song was well received.

“It was very gratifying that a song written that many years ago sitting a drawer, or in my case the piano bench, I had the chance to hear it,” Grossman said.

Grossman said he got his start writing songs at five years old when he wrote the school song for his elementary school. While at NU, he worked on the Waa-Mu show and said his time with the annual student production helped him confidently decide what he wanted to do after graduation.

Minnie’s Boys was a dream come true for Grossman because he said he always wanted to work on a Broadway production. But even with the transition from Broadway to Chicago theater, he still holds the same excitement for this revival and is excited to see it with three different audiences across two days, despite his eye for constant self-improvement.

“Everytime I see it, there are things I want to change. I think “Oh I want to do that better,” or “Why did we do that?’” Grossman said. “The fact that it’s being performed this many years later is an indicator that people want to see it and theater companies want to do it.”

Grossman is looking forward to a talk-back session with the audience after the last show to find out exactly why people are interested in viewing the show, considering Minnie’s Boys is not a household name and did not have a long Broadway run. Specifically, he’s most interested in knowing why young audience members attended a musical about older celebrities. He said this is his first time participating in a talkback like this.

Liz Pazik plays Minnie, the driving force behind the Marx Brothers, and said it’s been interesting learning this role. She said she draws inspiration from her own mother for this role since she also raised five children. Even though the show isn’t big enough to get a large scale revisit, Pazik said it’s worth reviving because it teaches people about the historical vaudeville performers.

Director Christopher Pazdernik shares similar feelings and said he’s been able to be more creative with this show since it’s been done so few times. While the revival’s creative team was not originally familiar with the material, he said it has been freeing to not have to compete with someone’s memory of a famous production.

Pazdernik said he has treasured producing this show and helping to bring history to life as “Minnie’s Boys” is the only show about the Marx Brothers. He also said the show’s age makes it all the more special, especially with Grossman’s music.

“It’s got a fabulous, golden age Broadway score that you’ve probably never heard before, and this is a rare experience to hear it performed live,” Pazdernik said.

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