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Ferrante to leave "Marx" in F'ville

Actor, director and producer Frank Ferrante has played the role of Groucho Marx -- a popular American comedian (1890-1977) -- for more than two decades.

While still in college at the University of Southern California, Ferrante was discovered by Marx's son Arthur, who hired him upon graduation in 1985. Together they developed the stage hit "Groucho: A Life in Revue" that appeared in both New York and London, with Marx as playwright and Ferrante as lead actor, and later, director of the piece. In London, the show was nominated for three Laurence Olivier Awards. The two re-teamed in 2001 to produce "Groucho" as a PBS national pledge program.

This weekend, Ferrante is touring Fayetteville for Jason Cicci's second and final installment of Summerstage 2007. "An Evening with Groucho," will be performed at historic Wellwood Auditorium.

Known for his quick wit and wisdom, Ferrante says there are one-liners a-plenty in this production, as well as routines from films like "Animal Crackers" and "The Cocoanuts."

"One of the highlights of the show is improv," he said. "About a third of the show is improvised and audience interactive. It's a very high energy show. It's a lot of fun."

Ferrante said he never knows what's going to happen from night to night, nor does his pianist Jim Furmston.

"It's exciting," Ferrante said. "And that's what I loved about Groucho -- his humor was so unpredictable and exhilarating."

Ferrante currently stars as the comic lead in the European cirque "Teatro Zinzanni" in San Francisco and Seattle, but he continues to perform about 40 to 50 of these "Groucho" one-nighters a year throughout the U.S, Canada and Europe.

"It's a great show," he said. "I speak directly to the audience and engage the audience. The Groucho gives permission to behave inappropriately and to break the rules."

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