On Jan. 5, 1997, the Off-Broadway musical The Cocoanuts will finish a five-month run marked by squabbles and unexpected success.
Launched in June at the tiny American Jewish Theatre on West 26th St., The Cocoanuts starred Michael McGrath, Peter Slutsker and Robert Sapoff as Groucho, Chico and Harpo Marx. The zany plot, by George S. Kaufman, and songs (including "Always") by Irving Berlin, clicked with audiences, and the show moved to The American Place Theatre in mid town, opening Aug. 15, 1996.
All was well until Michael McGrath was cast in the Broadway revival of Once Upon A Mattress and wanted to take a one-week vacation before joining the new show, forcing the producers to either close Cocoanuts or find a replacement, fast. (Ironically, McGrath would later leave Mattress by mutual agreement.) The show posted a closing notice but rescinded it when Frank Ferrante, a Groucho expert, came available.
As reported earlier on Playbill On-Line, Ferrante is slated to direct and star (as Max Prince) in Neil Simon's Laughter On The 23rd Floor at Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theatre, Jan. 11-Feb. 23. He also has a one night-only Jan. 27, 1997 booking at the Walnut to do An Evening With Groucho.
By Jan. 5, Cocoanuts will have played 165 performances and 22 previews at the American Place Theatre. According to production spokesperson Mark Cannistraro, a national tour is in the works. For tickets and information on The Cocoanuts, call (212) 239-6200.
-- By David Lefkowitz