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Spend a day with Groucho at BPA | Kitsap Week

Frank Ferrante will perform as Groucho Marx at Bainbridge Performing Arts on Jan. 18.  - Frank Ferrante prods.
Frank Ferrante will perform as Groucho Marx at Bainbridge Performing Arts on Jan. 18.
— image credit: Frank Ferrante prods.

Never before, or since, has there ever been someone like Groucho Marx.

Julius Marx sprung from the vaudeville circuit with his character Groucho in the early 20th century, along with his brothers Chico and Harpo. Together, they composed the comedic powerhouse, The Marx Brothers.

“It’s a brash style of American comedy that you don’t see much of today,” said Frank Ferrante, who performs as Groucho Marx in his one-man show, “An Afternoon with Groucho.”

The show will stop on Bainbridge Island for one day only, Jan. 18, 1:30 p.m. at Bainbridge Performing Arts.

After dominating the stage with improvised wisecracks and witty antics, The Marx Brothers went on to make 13 movies. The films still hold up today and are often cited by modern comedians as inspiration.

But perhaps the most famous of the Marx Brothers was Groucho, who could turn any situation into an opportunity for an offhand wisecrack. Stocked with puns, the character became a sensation whether on stage, screen, radio, games shows, or in person.

It’s that sensation that Ferrante conveys in “An Afternoon with Groucho.” He has performed the show since the ’80s, steadily since 2001.

“It’s the Groucho Marx from the 1920s and ’30s,” Ferrante said. “It’s very energetic and fast moving.”

“The point of the show is to communicate his style, his free-form style, his rapid mind and wit, his sense of fun and outrageousness,” he added. “It’s a big laugh show, with story telling, classic jokes and music. The premise is what would it be like to experience Groucho Marx in the ’20s if he did a one-man show.”

Groucho’s son, Arthur, originally hand-picked Ferrante to portray the legendary comedian in a play he had written in the ’80s. At 23 and fresh out of theater school, Ferrante was playing his idol on a New York stage. At 24, he was performing the show on London stages. The show, “A Life in Review,” was eventually tapped for PBS.

Since then, the Groucho show has evolved, Ferrante said.

The 90-minute performance is partially improvised and incorporates  quite a bit of audience participation.

Tickets are $20. Call 206-842-8569 for tickets, or visit www.bainbridgeperformingarts.org.

Ferrante also currently stars in Seattle as Caesar in the popular Teatro Zinzanni.

An Afternoon with Groucho

What: Frank Ferrante stars as Groucho Marx        When: Jan. 18, 1:30 p.m.

Where: Bainbridge Performing Arts, 200 Madison Ave N, Bainbridge Island

Tickets: $20, 206-842-8569, www.bainbridgeperformingarts.org.

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