Groucho Marx left us with plenty of swell one-liners, and he also left us with Frank Ferrante.
Ferrante, who becomes Marx in his one-man show, An Evening With Groucho, is good enough that everyone from New York Times critic Janet Maslin to Groucho's 85-year-old son Arthur Marx has voiced approval.
The show features one-liners, anecdotes, lots of ad-libbing and interaction with the audience, as well as "10 songs with a lot of wordplay, puns and jokes in the music," says Ferrante. The fast-paced numbers include "Hooray for Captain Spalding" and "Lydia the Tattooed Lady." Groucho also reminisces about the Marx Brothers, Charlie Chaplin, W.C. Fields, Greta Garbo, Louis B. Mayer and straight woman Margaret Dumont.
"It's really about the Groucho that could be experienced in the 1920s and '30s live [onstage], and there are very few people alive today who know what that was like," he adds.
The imitation may be familiar to those who caught Ferrante in a similar show, Groucho: A Life in Revue, broadcast nationally on PBS last March. Revue, which was written by Arthur Marx and features several actors portraying all the Marx Brothers and other characters, chronicles Groucho's life from ages 15 to 85. Evening, the show coming to Florissant this weekend, was penned by Ferrante as a senior at USC 17 years ago. He has performed it more than 2,000 times.
Ferrante says Groucho's influence can be observed in the behavior of comics such as David Letterman and Don Rickles and in TV shows such as M*A*S*H and Frasier. Most obviously, Groucho left an impression on Woody Allen and on the creators of Bugs Bunny, whose carrot is just a cigar of a different color.