The great comedian Groucho Marx has been gone for nearly 40 years now, but his comic legacy lives on. Classic Marx Brothers movies like Duck Soup and Animal Crackers, or Groucho's long-running game show, You Bet Your Life, can still be seen on TV and YouTube. And, his influence is still seen in the work of many comedians, from Steven Wright to Jerry Seinfeld and countless others.
The Groucho legacy also lives on through the persona of actor Frank Ferrante, who was hand-chosen to play the role of Groucho Marx years ago by none other than Groucho’s son, Arthur. But Ferrante was a Groucho fan long before he was chosen to portray the famous comedian.
"I fell in love with Groucho Marx when I was nine-years-old and I saw A Day at the Races. Neighborhood kids said, 'Frank, turn on the TV and check these guys out,'" Ferrante recalls. "And there was Groucho with his grease paint mustache, the eyebrows, the crazy hair, the loping walk, the cigar, and he was saying outrageous things."
Ferrante has channeled Groucho for more than three decades now and the next nine weeks of his career will be spent in Milwaukee, putting on the one-man show at the Milwaukee Rep, called An Evening With Groucho.
Ferrante believes that Groucho's enduring legacy is based on his ability to speak truth to power. "He was a surrogate for many of us. He took down politics and politicians, big business, lawyers, doctors, people in power, and that doesn't get old. It's exhilarating to see the little guy beat the big guy," he says.
An Evening With Groucho will be on stage at the Milwaukee Rep's Stackner Cabaret through the end of May.