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Performer has Marx down pat

Frank Ferrante performs as Groucho Marx. Ferrante immerses himself in the character.
Frank Ferrante performs as Groucho Marx. Ferrante immerses himself in the character.
Frank Ferrante Prods. Inc.

AN EVENING WITH GROUCHO; Covey Center for the Arts, 425 W. Center, Provo; one night only; running time 2 hours, one 15-minute intermission

PROVO — Frank Ferrante's comic timing as the famed Groucho Marx was flawless Saturday night, but the same cannot be said for those in charge of scheduling at the Covey Center for the Arts.

To pit this fine and funny artist against a Brigham Young University game on a snowy Saturday night was most unfortunate — so much so that the box office simply opened the house and invited everyone to attend for free.

Even so, the reputation of Ferrante and his sidekick, pianist Jim Furmston, must have preceded them. There were about 100 hardy souls in the audience, including kids and plenty of diehard Marx fans, and they were well rewarded.

Ferrante has Groucho's schtick and look and fast-moving signature crabwalk down pat. It's easy to forget the man in the trench coat who introduces the act is the same guy.

And he's so at ease working the audience. The one-liners come quickly as he wakes up a couple of people, insults a few people for being married a long time and gives a young fan a chance to be on stage as a wannabe Groucho.

He and Furmston have a well-oiled routine between them, and Furmston tickles and tickles and tickles the keys in a joke that never gets tiresome.

It's fun to watch and easy to enjoy.

Ferrante wastes no time getting into character, applying the trademark eyebrows and thick mustache right on stage.

From there, it's a little story, a little dance, a little sitting on the piano and a lot of laughs. So much is so totally silly, wise-cracking at the speed of light that includes the classic Groucho routines: "I Must Be Going," "Lydia" and push-ups on the piano.

At the end of two hours, it really feels like its just been a few minutes.

He's immersed in the character and he understands where he is. Several times he refers to Provo and the local LDS culture in gentle ribs. "I offered coffee to people. It's not going over too well tonight for some reason?"

If and when he comes again to Provo — (at one point, he leans over to Furmston and says, "A hell of a tour they've got us on this week. Next week we're playing Spanish Fork!") — make a point of seeing him in action. This guy's worth it.