A Comedic Legend Returns to the Walnut in “Frank Ferrante’s Groucho”

-Courtesy of the Walnut Street Theatre

For one show only, Frank Ferrante will perform his acclaimed portrayal of legendary comedian Groucho Marx in Frank Ferrante’s Groucho. The performance, which Variety has called “a Tour de Force,” will take place on the Walnut’s Mainstage Saturday, March 12, 2022, at 2 p.m. – the first time the Walnut will present this show as a matinee.

Award-winning actor and director Frank Ferrante, described by The New York Times as “the greatest living interpreter of Groucho Marx’s material,” takes audiences through a fast-paced 90 minutes of pure hilarity. The two-act comedy includes the best Groucho one-liners, anecdotes, and songs such as “Hooray for Captain Spalding,” and “Lydia, the Tattooed Lady.” Accompanied by his onstage pianist, Ferrante portrays the young Groucho of stage and film and reacquaints us with the likes of brothers Harpo, Chico, Zeppo and Gummo, Charlie Chaplin, W.C. Fields, and more. The audience becomes part of the show as Ferrante engages them throughout the performance.

As a drama student at the University of Southern California, Ferrante was discovered by Groucho’s son, Arthur Marx. Arthur went on to write Groucho: A Life in Revue, and selected Ferrante to originate the off-Broadway title role. The show then debuted in the West End, earning Ferrante a nomination for the Laurence Olivier Award for “Comedy Performance of the Year.” Ferrante first recreated the role on Walnut’s stage in the 1992-1993 season.

At the Walnut, Frank has directed and performed in the Walnut Street Theatre’s productions of Ken Ludwig’s A Comedy of TenorsA Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Laughter on The 23rd Floor. He has also directed shows including Brighton Beach MemoirsBiloxi BluesBroadway Bound and Lost in Yonkers. At Walnut’s Independence Studio on 3, Ferrante wrote and starred in By George and directed the world premiere of Old Wicked Songs, a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Ferrante continues to perform his comic creation ‘The Caesar’ in cirque/cabaret venues worldwide.

Frank Ferrante’s Groucho is directed by Dreya Weber, who last appeared at the Walnut in Ken Ludwig’s A Comedy of Tenors. Weber has directed Ferrante in extended runs of An Evening with Groucho at Seattle’s ACT, the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, the Pasadena Playhouse, the Bucks County Playhouse, and Cincinnati’s Playhouse in the Park. She recently directed and choreographed Sensatia at the Faena theater in Miami. An accomplished aerialist, she has conceived aerial choreography for PINK’s Glitter in the Air and Try for the Grammys, Michael Jackson’s This is It, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Madonna, and Cher.

Gerald Sternbach will accompany Ferrante onstage as the onstage pianist. Sternbach has traveled with the show for some time, accompanying Ferrante for extended runs at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Cincinnati’s Playhouse in the Park, and the Bucks County Playhouse. An in-demand music director and accompanist, he has worked with a variety of artists including Mel Brooks, Carrie Fisher, Mary Tyler Moore, Carol Burnett, and Josh Groban.

In the Walnut’s history, the Marx Brothers also performed on the Walnut’s stage. In 1923, when transitioning from vaudeville to the legitimate stage, they debuted their first show I’ll Say She Is. Following critical acclaim at the Walnut, the show went on to tour nationally before opening on Broadway. It was during this show that Groucho’s signature painted mustache was created. Running late for a show one night, he used greasepaint instead of a glued-on mustache. He found it a much easier routine and decided to keep it as part of his routine.

Frank Ferrante’s Groucho will run for one matinee performance only at Walnut Street Theatre, Saturday, March 12 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $17 – $37, and VIP tickets, which include a post-show reception, are available for $77. For tickets and information, call 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787. Tickets are also available online at WalnutStreetTheatre.org or Ticketmaster.com.

Ninety-five years ago, Groucho Marx played the Walnut Street Theatre in the Marx Brothers’ musical I’ll Say She Is. Audiences and critics went wild over the Brothers’ irreverent humor, expert pantomime, physical shtick, and outrageous musical talent. Said one local Philadelphia critic about the show, “It was as if a tornado hit town. We’ve never seen anything like the Marx Brothers.” I’ll Say She Is moved to Broadway in 1924 and was an instant sensation legitimizing the Marx Brothers as world-class talents. In 1930, Groucho and his brothers moved to Hollywood and changed the face of film comedy forever. There they made Monkey BusinessHorse FeathersDuck SoupA Night at the OperaA Day at the RacesRoom ServiceAt the CircusGo WestThe Big StoreA Night in Casablanca and Love Happy between 1931 and 1949. As a solo act, Groucho launched a career on radio and television with his Emmy Award winning work as the host of the comedy quiz show “You Bet Your Life.” He became a major fixture in 1950’s television. At age 82, he received a special Academy Award in 1974 for “the brilliant and unequalled achievements of the Marx Brothers.”

Walnut Street Theatre is continuing to work with guidelines from the CDC, Pennsylvania Department of Health, and Philadelphia Department of Health to develop the most comprehensive plan to keep patrons, artists, and employees safe.

Guests ages 5 and up will need to be fully vaccinated with an FDA or WHO authorized vaccine to attend a show and must show proof of vaccination at their time of entry into the theatre with their valid ticket. Children under 5 and guests who need reasonable accommodations due to a medical condition or closely held religious belief that prevents vaccination must provide proof of either a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of the performance or a negative COVID-19 rapid antigen test taken within 6 hours of the performance. In addition to proof of vaccination, all guests 18 or older must present valid government-issued photo ID. Guests under 18 may also use a school ID. Guests under 12 must be accompanied by an adult who meets these requirements. For more information, visit WalnutStreetTheatre.org/visit/safety.php.

Everyone in the theatre must wear acceptable face coverings at all times, including during the show, except while eating or drinking when seated in Barrymore’s Cafe, located in the lower lobby. Barrymore’s Cafe is the only area in the theatre where guests can consume food and drink.

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