“An Evening with Groucho,” a Benefit Performance for La Salle High School on May 11
As a student at La Salle High School in 1980, Frank Ferrante portrayed the young Groucho Marx in “Minnie’s Boys,” a show about the vaudeville days of the five singing Marx boys and how they evolved into the anarchistic comedy legends – the Marx Brothers. He has been playing Groucho ever since.
On Saturday, May 11, Ferrante will bring his critically-acclaimed one-man show, “An Evening with Groucho,” to La Salle High School in Pasadena for a benefit performance for the school’s four-year arts programs. The performance, which will be held in the school’s dinning hall at 7 p.m., is the only Southern California engagement this year. All proceeds go to the school.
Ferrante, who has been called the “greatest living interpreter”of Groucho Marx’s material, first portrayed Groucho in the La Salle production of “Minnie’s Boys” in 1980. “Six years later, I was doing “Groucho: A Life in Revue” in New York.”
“Groucho: A Life in Revue,” launched his stage career, taking the then 23-year-old Ferrante off-Broadway and then to London, portraying Groucho from age 15 to 85. For his work in the off-Broadway production, Ferrante won New York’s Theatre World Award in 1987 and was nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award. For the London run, Ferrante was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for comedy performance that same year.
Subsequently, Ferrante starred in, produced and directed a stage production of “Groucho: A Life in Revue” for PBS television, which aired in 2001. Today, Ferrante continues to channel the iconic comedian in his one-man show, “An Evening with Groucho.” He has been touring in the one-man-show for more than a decade.
The theater arts program at La Salle “changed my life and prepared me to work in the field that I love,” said Ferrante, who was raised in Sierra Madre, graduated from La Salle in 1981, and still resides in the San Gabriel Valley. His brother Tony graduated from La Salle in ’83 and youngest brother John teaches and is an administrator at Christian Brothers run Cathedral High School.
“The theater arts program allowed Frank to blossom,” recalled Brother Christopher Brady, who as a young teacher served as the technical director for La Salle’s spring musicals.
Ferrante’s professional acting career began when as a drama student at USC, Ferrante was discovered by Arthur Marx, the son of Groucho. Arthur Marx co-wrote “Minnie’s Boys” and “Groucho: A Life in Revue” with Robert Fisher.
Arthur Marx cast Ferrante to play the title role in “Groucho: A Life in Revue,” hiring him as soon as Ferrante graduated college in 1985 to try out the play in Kansas City. By 1986, Ferrante was starring in a hit show off-Broadway and in London the next year. He brought the show to the Pasadena Playhouse in 1989.
Ferrante estimates he has taken “An Evening with Groucho” to more than 400 cities. He sees no end in sight for the one-man show.
“That’s because there’s no such thing as an old joke if you never heard it before,” he said. “Young people are discovering Groucho Marx all the time.”
An Evening with Groucho Marx will be held on May 11, 7:00 p.m. Tickets will be $35 general admission, $12 students and seniors, and $50 VIP seating. May be purchased online at www.groucholshs.brownpapertickets.com or at the door.
La Salle High School, 3880 E. Sierra Madre Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 351-8951 or visit www.lasallehs.org.