Frank Ferrante AKA “The Ceasar” of Teatro Zinzanni fame brings his one man show about Groucho Marx to the tent. “An Evening with Groucho” is a hit seen around the world and the only performance actually acknowledged and encouraged by Groucho’s children, Arthur and Miriam. This is a one night event at the Teatro Zinzanni tent. It is happening tonight! Get down there and experience the charisma, animal magnetism, and comedy that we know as Frank Ferrante. Doors open at 6:30 and the show starts at 8:00pm. Get there early and enjoy a Seattle favorite. More info here.
Earle Dutton: Could you tell me a little bit about “An Evening with Groucho”?
Frank Ferrante: It is in Teatro Zinzanni tent so it is in the round. It is a two act comedy with music. The premise is, what if Groucho was invited to do a solo act in the mid-30s. He never actually did it. He always worked with his brothers, Harpo and Chico during that time. Prior to that, he was on Broadway and Vaudeville. They also did a series of movies. Grouch never worked solo in the “Groucho persona” in that era. So the premise is around the idea that some theater or summer stock offered him ninety minutes carte blanche to do whatever he would like to do and just generally run wild. This show is really my fantasy. It is anecdotal. There are some songs from his Broadway shows and films. There are bits and routines from the shows as well. I would say that the most satisfying part of the show is the improv and audience interaction that has evolved over my thirty years of doing this piece. I hope that the show gives current audiences in 2016 the experience of what he was like performing in his prime. I don’t think there are many people left that experienced him live on Broadway in the 20s. It is a very fast moving and energetic show. I have done it in almost five hundred cities around the world. Even after twenty five hundred performances, I keep working on it.
ED: I heard that you worked with his children and they approve of your show as well. Could you tell me about that experience?
FF: His son, Arthur, hired me to portray his father. Arthur Marx is a playwright and wrote a piece called, “Groucho: A Life in Revue”. I invited him to see a very early version of the current show that I am performing at Teatro Zinzanni. He saw it and said that he would love to use me if he ever did a show about his father. This was in 1984 so over thirty years ago. He stuck to his word within a year I was playing off Broadway at the Lucille Lortel Theater. It was a big hit. I played Groucho from about ages fifteen to eighty-five. In my current show I focus on the younger Groucho. I became very close to Arthur. He was like a father to me. Groucho’s daughter, Miriam, was also at that early performance in Southern California. She is still alive. She is eighty-nine and we are extremely close. Arthur passed away in 2011. Groucho’s son and daughter were huge advocates and really believed in me.
ED: How do you keep a show like this fresh and new?
FF: I have done some new material. I have done this character for so long. You can really just feel the audience. I started doing this show when I was twenty-two and now I am fifty-three. That is a long time. I have really taken the time and discovered what audiences like about the show and my performance. They really enjoy the improve pieces in the show. So, some of the set material gets let go and replaced by total improve pieces. Sometimes, I just go off script and just have fun. That is when I discover new material. I want this show to keep going on and get better. I think the improv really does that for me. It is never boring because every show is different. The audience is almost a character in the piece.
ED: Is “An Evening with Groucho” similar to a regular Teatro Zinzanni show from the audience perspective?
FF: There is food and drinks offered prior to the show. There won’t be the full five course meal that Zinzanni provides. You will be able to buy appetizers, bites and drinks while you are there. There is an intermission as well. It is a two act show. It has a fifty minute first act and forty minute second act.
Doors open at 6:30 and the show starts at 8:00pm for Frank Ferrante. Get there early and enjoy a Seattle favorite. More info here.