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

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entire contents copyright 2003 by Tony Annicone

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

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Actors' Collaborative's latest production is the 1962 Stephen Sondheim musical comedy, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum". The show 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 he 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 many years ago by pirates. Director/choreographer Marianne Lonati and musical director, Shannon Manley lead their talented 18 member cast in this very funny musical comedy with upbeat music and excellent one liners, making it a must see show.

Marianne directs and blocks this show very well but it is the choreography in the opening and closing number that will have you cheering. "Comedy Tonight" opens the show, she has her whole cast dancing up a storm in it with a Vee shaped formation being especially impressive. Marianne also has four men doing a kickline in the maid song which is not only well executed but very humorous, too. Shannon gets the best out of her 10 piece orchestra and her the cast members in this difficult Sondheim score. The harmonies in the opening song and the maid song are standout vocals in the show. The fantastic set of three houses ( one a two story) with a colorful tile floor and the gorgeous time period costumes are all by Daniel Kozar who not only produced this show but plays the doddering, Erronious who must travel the 7 hills of Rome before he can find his children. The master carpenter, Chris Lydon built the set while Michael Hyde designed the lighting and Mark Deluzio does the sound. Excellent job by Marianne, Shannon and Dan who is very busy man in this show and their crew.

Jeff Mahoney gives a tour de force performance as Pseudolos. This man acts, sings and dances this crazy character with ease. The oneliners slip off his tongue perfectly with a laugh a minute intensity. His powerful voice fills the theatre in all his numbers whether it is the tongue twisting "Pretty Little Picture" and "Free" or the comic ballad duet of "Lovely" or the "Comedy Tonight" number which lets the audience know this show is definitely going to be a comedy. Jeff's timing, facial expressions and many antics are outstanding, making him one of the best comic leading men around.

Dan Kircher as Hero and Kristen Quartarone as Philia play the young couple who fall in love at first sight. Dan displays Hero's naivete in his first song, "Love I Hear" while showing off his strong singing voice. His duet, "Lovely" with Kristen shows how love struck he is by this girl. Kristen who is only 17 uses her strong soprano voice in the duet with Dan 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 plays this dumb blonde wonderfully especially when she can't tell the difference between 3 and 5. Dan and Kristen do very well in these roles, showing off their talent at a young age.

Veteran performers, Doug McDougal as Hysterium, Jeremy Woloski as Senex, Eileen Cosgrove Cusack as Domina and Kevin Mischley as Miles, play their roles very well, too. Doug is very funny as the nervous, groveling servant. He really shines once he disguises himself as the virgin complete with redhead wig, singing his duet with Jeff as well as showing his voice off in his solo, "I'm Calm". Jeremy is perfect as the dirty old man chasing after the young chick. His line delivery and one liners are splendid, too. Jeremy sings the lead in the "Everybody Ought to have a Maid", a vaudeville style quartet number, where he mistakes Philia for a serving girl. A comic gem in this show is the duet between Dan and Jeremy called "Impossible" where they both think they are incapable of loving this virgin because they are either too young or too old. The domineering shrew wife, Domina is played perfectly by Eileen. Her fantastic soprano voice does full justice to her solo number, "That Dirty Old Man", making it one of the best renditions I have ever heard of this number. (Brava!) Eileen disguises herself as the virgin to find out what Senex is up to and helps create the mixed up idenity chase scene. Kevin is hilarious as the pompous, egomanic Roman captain who is worshipped by one and all. He has some good oneliners and my favorite interchange is his astonishment at Domina having entertained 200 soldiers in her home. (He thinks she is a prostitute.) Kevin uses his strong singing voice in "Bring Me My Bride" which is about his beauty and strength as well as in the funeral song in the second act where Hysterium is the girl who isn't really dead. Four funny performances.

Other cast members include Dan Gravely who plays the lisping, smarmy whorehouse owner, Lycus. The character is a coward and is happy when Pseudolus pretends to be him to save him from the wrath of the captain. The three men who play the Proteans (who double as soldiers and eunuchs) are Brian Gustafson, Jay Silvi and Aaron Spence. They run around the stage like the Three Stooges and give the audience some comic moments while doing so. The courtesans, Krista Weller, Becca Corcoran, Cat Corbett, Allicia Lawson, Atia Gravely and Jennifer Mischley are all beautiful and do a wonderful job in their dancing scene to be sold to Pseudolus and in the bride and funeral scene, too. (They wear next to nothing and I am surprised with the cold weather upon us that they didn't freeze to death in their skimpy costumes.) So for a fun filled evening where you can escape from your everyday problems in the 21st century, travel back to 200 years BC in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" in Foxboro at the Orpheum Theatre. Tell them Tony sent you.(For this show they not only give you a press kit supplied by publicity persons, Jen Mischley and Holly Steele, they give the reviewers a bottle of wine in the spirit of ancient comedy playwright, Dionysus.)

"A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to The Forum" (3 - 11 October)
Orpheum Theatre, 1 School Street, , FOXBOROUGH, MA
1 (508) 543-2787

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