Theatre Mirror Reviews "A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to The Forum"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2012 by Tony Annicone

"A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to The Forum"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Theater Works current show is the 1962 Stephen Sondheim musical comedy, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" which was his first show as composer and lyricist, running on Broadway for 964 performances. The show is a combination of the hilarious illogical antics of the 2000 year old comedies of Roman playwright Plautus and the zany, infectious energy of a classic vaudeville show. It takes place in ancient Rome and is about Pseudolus, a slave who wants to be free. The character is a conman who bluffs his way out of any sticky situation easily. His master, Hero falls in love with the girl next door who happens to be a virgin named Philia. The only problem is she has been sold to be wed to a warrior, Miles Gloriosus by the town whoremaster, Marcus Lycus. The boy's father, Senex lusts after the girl but is married to a shrew wife, Domina. Their servant, Hysterium tries to keep the peace while their neighbor, Erronius searches for his two lost children who were kidnapped by pirates many years ago. Throw in courtesans and the Proteans who play soldiers and various citizens in the show. Director Connie Anderson picks the best 18 cast members to play these wacky characters and musical director Mary Jo Rett taught all the difficult Sondheim songs to the cast while Connie as choreographer created the dance steps, making this show a joyous comic romp for a very appreciative audience to enjoy. The hard working cast is rewarded with a standing ovation at the end of the show.

Connie gives her cast a lot of clever shtick to perform in this madcap show. Her husband, Mark built the superb two story set of three colorful houses.Paul Adam is the stage manager and Connie runs the sound and lights. Mary Jo plays lead keyboards and conducts a five piece orchestra. Some of the dances include the sexy courtesan moves and the vaudeville maid dance. The lovely costumes are by Sharon Charette. Ed Benjamin III is topnotch in the leading role of Pseudolous. Ed acts, sings and dances as this crazy character with ease. The one liners slip off his tongue wonderfully with a laugh a minute intensity. His strong voice fills the theatre in all his numbers whether it's the tongue twisting "Pretty Little Picture" and "Free" or the comic ballad duet of "Lovely" or the "Comedy Tonight" number which clues the audience in that this show is definitely going to be a comedy. Kevin Fish as Hero and Frankie Gallucci as Philia play the young couple who fall in love at first sight. Kevin displays Hero's naivete in his first song, "Love I Hear" while showing off his strong baritone voice. His duet, "Lovely" with Frankie shows how love struck Hero is by this gorgeous gal. One of my favorite numbers is "Impossible' which Hero sings with his father about their contrasting viewpoints of love. Kevin sparkles in his scenes with Frankie. She shows off her phenomenal soprano voice in the "I'm Lovely" duet with Kevin where she sings about how she can't do anything but look beautiful and in her "That'll Show Him" number where she sings how she will show the captain she's still in love with Hero by loving the captain even more. Frankie is hilarious as this dimbulb especially when she can't tell the difference between the numbers 3 and 5. They both do a terrific job as this naive duo.

Three of the biggest scene stealers in this show are Shelly Whittle as Hysterium, David Schrag as Senex and Lisa Forsgard as Domina. Shelly is a hoot as the hysterical slave, Hysterium. He gets kicked in the butt and yelled at constantly. Shelly leaves you in stitches when he dresses up as the virgin in the second act, singing how lovely he looks while clad in a blonde wig, white dress and a veil. David is hilarious as Senex in his pursuit of the virgin and misunderstanding all the craziness around him. Senex thinks the virgin is a maid due to Pseudolous' fabrication which leads to the show stopping vaudeville quartet number "Everybody Ought to Have a Maid". I last reviewed David in "Pirates of Penzance" at Fiddlehead Theatre last November. His domineering, shrew wife, Domina is wonderfully played by Lisa. She is a laugh a minute with her lines and entrances in her scenes. She sings the "Dirty Old Man" song about wanting to wring her husband's neck while wanting him. The chase scene where she and Shelly are disguised as the virgin is hilarious. Another funny bit is when she tells Miles that she entertained 200 soldiers at her last party while all along he believes her to be a courtesan.

More merriment in the show is supplied by Joe Casey as Miles Gloriosus. He captures the vain, snooty behavior of this Roman solider and shows off his splendid voice in "Bring Me My Bride" and "Funeral Sequence". Another comic performance is by Christopher Kibbe as Marcus Lycus, the smarmy whorehouse owner. He plays this cowardly character with finesse. Lycus' happiness as Pseudolous pretends to be him in the Miles sequence is hilarious. Frank O'Donnell is a hoot as the doddering old man, Erronius who must run around the seven hills of Rome before he can find his children. The courtesans and Proteans bring a lot of fun to the show, too. I have happy memories of this show having played Lycus in 1984 at the Newport Playhouse. So for a fun filled evening of madcap antics, be sure to catch "Forum" at Theatre Works.

"A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to The Forum" (16 - 25 March)
@ Clinton Street, WOONSOCKET RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide