Theatre Mirror Reviews - "A Funnny 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 2011 by Tony Annicone

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

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Granite Theatre's fall production is "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum". 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. "Forum" was Stephen Sondheim's first show in 1962 as a composer and lyricist and it ran on Broadway for 964 performances. It starred Zero Mostel as Pseudolous, the slave who in a desperate attempt to win his freedom, attempts to help his young master, Hero, win the love of a young virgin, Philia. Meanwhile,Pseudolous has to outsmart Hero's parents, the courtesan procurer, Lycus and the man who already paid for Philia, Miles Gloriosus, a narcissistic Roman captain. Throw in a nervous slave named Hysterium, an old man, Erronius who is searching for his missing children, courtesans and the Proteans who play soldiers and various citizens in the show. Director David Jepson chooses the best 18 cast members to portray these wacky characters and musical director Diana Blanda taught all the difficult Sondheim songs to the cast while choreographer Lisa Clough created the dance steps, making this show into a joyous comic romp for a very appreciative audience to enjoy.

David also built the two story set of three colorful houses and gets the best performances from his cast. His lovely wife, Beth is the stage manager while Tai Scavetta runs the many lighting changes for the show. Diana obtains topnotch harmonies especially in the opening song and the maid number with Ian Ramsden running the sound tracks for John Smith's accompaniment tracks. Lisa's dances are the sexy courtesean moves and the maid dance to name a couple of them.Larry Wilson is excellent in the leading role of Pseudolous. This man acts, sings and dances the crazy character with ease. The oneliners slip off his tongue wonderfully with a laugh a minute intensity. His topnotch voice fills the theatre in all his number 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 the show is definitely going to be a comedy. Nicholas Mikkelsen as Hero and Rochelle Weinrauch as Philia play the young couple who fall in love at first sight. Nicholas displays Hero's naivete in his first song, "Love I Hear" while showing off his strong baritone voice. His duet, "Lovely" with Rochelle shows how love struck Hero is by this gorgeous gal. One of my favorite numbers is "Impossible" which Hero sings with his father about contrasting viewpoints of love. Nicholas sparkles in his scenes with Rochelle. She uses her strong soprano voice in the "I'm Lovely" duet with Nicholas 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. She wears a blonde wig and is very funny as this dimbulb especially when she can't tell the difference between 3 and 5. They both play this naive couple wonderfully.

Three of the biggest scene stealers in this show are John Cillino as Hysterium, Frank Pendola as Senex, and Diana Blanda as Domina. John is a hoot as the hysterical slave, Hysterium. He gets kicked in the butt and yelled at constantly. He will leave you in stitches when John dresses up as the virgin in the second act and sings how lovely he looks while clad in a blonde wig, white dress and a veil. His singing voice never sounded better. Frank as Senex is very funny in his pursuit of the virgin and in his misunderstanding of the craziness around him. Senex thinks the virgin is a maid because of Pseudolous' fabrication which leads to the quartet number "Everybody Ought to Have a Maid" which stops the show. His domineering, shrew wife, Domina is excellently played by Diana. She is a laugh riot with every line and entrance into a scene. She commands the stage and sells her "Dirty Old Man" song about wanting to wring her husband's neck while still wanting him beautifully with her gorgeous soprano voice. The chase scene where she and John are disguised as the virgin are laugh out loud moments. Also funny is when she tells Miles she entertained 200 soldiers at her last party.

More merriment in the show is supplied by Glenn Potter as Miles Glorious. He captures the vain, snooty behavior of this Roman soldier and he shows off his voice in "Bring Me My Bride" and "Funeral Sequence". Another comic performance is by John Faiola as Marcus Lycus, the smarmy whorehouse owner. He plays this cowardly character with finesse. His happiness as Pseudolous pretends to be him in the Miles sequence is a hoot. I first met John when we did "Fiddler" together back in 1979. He still has a terrific tenor voice. John Lamar is funny 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. Kudos to the whole cast for bringing this entertaining show to life at the Granite Theatre. I have happy memories of this show having played Lycus in 1984 at the Newport Playhouse. So for a topnotch evening of entertainment, be sure to catch "Forum" in Westerly. You will be glad you did.

"A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to The Forum" (14 October - 20 November)
@ 1 Granite Street, WESTERLY RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide