Fresh from his stint taking over for Michael McGrath in Off-Broadway's The Cocoanuts, Frank Ferrante will 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. The show officially opens Feb. 23. Simon based Laughter on his experiences as a writer for TV's "Your Show Of Shows," a 1950s sketch-comedy series that made Sid Caesar a star. In the play, Max Prince is the crazed but lovable, Caesar-esque character, whose writers try to outwit each other with streams of one liners and gags. The humor helps the writers cope with their uncertain future as television moves away from New York and into a broader, more homogenized American landscape.
Of his TV years, Simon recently said, "Mostly we laughed, talked, argued and ate, anything to put off the inevitable writing. But when we worked, we burned the midnight oil and sometimes burned the drapes and destops as well."
Ferrante, last seen at the Walnut in the musical Groucho: A Life In Revue, will again bring Groucho to the Walnut for a one-night-only Jan. 27 Evening With Groucho.
Also in the company are Roy Abramsohn, Dick Decareau, Scott Greer, Tony Freeman, Ben Lipitz, Steve Perlmutter, Karen Hinton and Amanda Rogers. Tony Walton, who recently made his directing debut with The Importance Of Being Earnest Off-Broadway, has designed the set, F. Mitchell Dana the lighting, Kevin Ross the costumes and Scott Smith the sound.
For tickets ($8-$39) and information on Laughter On The 23rd Floor at the Walnut Street Theatre's mainstage, call (215) 574-3550 x.4.
-- By David Lefkowitz