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

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

| MARQUEE | USHER | SEATS | INTERMISSION | CURTAIN |



"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


Reviews of Current Productions


note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Larry Stark


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

Book by Burt Shevelov and Larry Gelbart
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed and Choreographed by David. H. Bell
Music Direction by Valerie Gebert

Scenic Design by Dex Edwards
Costume Design by Nancy Leary
Lighting Design by Kendall Smith
Sound Design by John A. Stone
Production Stage Manager Gary Graham

Pseudolus....................................Jamie Torcellini
Hero..................................................Gavin Creel
Philia.........................................Kimla Y. Beasley
Miles Gloriosus...........................Stephen Zinnato
Senex...............................................Tim Hartman
Domina.....................................Chandra Currelley
Hysterium...................................John P. Gregorio
Lycus............................................LaParee Young
Erronius............................................James Bodge
Gymnasia..............................Melissa Raye Mahon
Panacea........................................Carry Kenneally
The Geminae.....Therese Friedmann, Kristin Tudor
Vibrata..........................................Tabbatha Mays
Tintinabula.......................................Jennifer Voss
Proteans
Leo Alvarez, Matt Baker, Sean McKnight

Orchestra
Flute, Clarinet, Alto Sax....................Bill Carmichael
Tenor Sax, Clarinet, Oboe......................Rod Ferland
Baritone Sax, Bass Clarinet.................Marc Phaneuf
Trumpet.......................................................Jay Daly
Trumpet..............................................Richard Given
Trombone...............................................Peter Cirelli
Violin........................................................Lucy Pope
Bass........................................................Barry Smith
Keyboard...........................................Steve Bergman
Percussion........................................Mark Worgaftik


Everybody ought to see this show. Everybody ought to see the comedy, guffaw at all the japery that's bubbling about the house! Oh, Oh, aren't they all delightful, aren't the girls fantastic --- long of leg; short of skirt! If you think you know "Forum" because you've worn out three old lp's of Stephen Sondheim's words and music, see the show for Larry Gelbart's and Burt Shevelov's book. If you think you know it because you saw a production once, see this production for the verve with which this cast invigorates the familiar and embellishes it all with personal touches. But call ahead for your tickets. Any show that can fill every seat in the big round North Shore Music Theatre on a cold Monday night with hysterically giggling people may sell out before you get there.

This is the sort of theatrical event that explodes before your very eyes, and the rapid pace and flawless timing focus an audience's attention so totally on what's happening every moment that it seems spontaneous. So rather than run through the cast pinning effusively complimentary adjectives on everyone, I want to start with Director and Choreographer David H. Bell. First choosing an inter-racial cast, he decided to use that aspect of the show, allowing Chandra Currelley and LaParee Young to get a Gospel flavor into their singing, and letting Young, playing a brothel-owner, to strut as a street-smart flim-flam artist. Bell also allowed Kimla Y. Beasley, playing a virgin courtesan (who is aware of her worth in both categories), to let fly with an operatic trill here and there. Bell has used every inch of Dex Edwards' lushly cartoon-y set and even sends his zanies into the audience upon occasion.

A program note acknowledges the show's debt to vaudeville, but neglects its ties to burlesque --- and that brings up the girls. The six ladies who are procurer Lycus' merchandise have the most perfect bodies in the business, and Costumer Nancy Leary allows very little cloth to obstruct the view. Merely decorating the set they would stop the show, but they can dance as well! All they'd need do is stalk about the stage to fulfill every dirty old man's fantasies, but each comes with a distinct personality and a dance specialty.

The word for Sondheim's score is bouncy, and that's the word for the zanies that rocket around the stage like lively billiard balls giving off punchlines and schtick as they bounce off one another. There is Tim Hartman as ageing Senex, playing with the audience while using his English mustache and bearing to get laughs even standing still. There is John P. Gregorio as stuffy Hysterium, whose masquerade as a dead virgin gives him an increasing fondness for frilly dresses. There's LaParee Young's cake-walking sex-salesman, whose timing enlivens some of the fastest comic exchanges anywhere. There's James Bodge as Erronius, whose failing eyesight and unfailing gullibility turn him into a sight-gag popping up at all the wrong moments.

The lovers, Kimla Y. Beasley as Filia and Gavin Creet as Hero, are all passionate innocence. They are dutiful to a fault, passionately single-minded, and focused on one another while various plots to aid or thwart their love whirlwind around them.

Chandra Currelley as Senex' wife Domina is a charming harridan whose fires are banked, not spent. Though she treats him like a suspect doormat, her affection for "That Dirty Old Man of Mine" is surprisingly effective.

And, almost a separate show all his own, there is Stephen Zinnato's Miles Gloriosus. He takes large steps, and selflessly allows everyone to admire the power of his personality. Told that if his intended bride (Filia) 'were a man she'd be you," his astonished "She's THAT beautiful?" is eloquently in character.

And everyone else is played by the three Proteans --- Leo Alvarez, Matt Baker, ands Sean McKnight. They get to do sneekered clog-dances as Miles' soldiers, shrieking drag as Lycus' eunuchs, to flutter flags playing the sea, and to bombulate about the stage like Keystone Kops.

And that's the entire cas......
Oh no! Who could leave out the deviously quick-witted slave Pseudolus! Jamie Torcellini's little trickster is the slick, bombastic motor for this show, His attitude is that everyone will believe anything so long as he says it fast enough --- and the plot allows him to get away with murder as his schemes either fail or succeed. With Torcellini centerstage there' an awful lot of funny things happening on the way to the finale. And those girls are incredible!

Love,
===Dirty Old Man
( a k a Anon. )

"A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to The Forum" (till 20 June)
NORTH SHORE MUSIC THEATRE
62 Dunham Road, BEVERLY
1(978-922-8500

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

| MARQUEE | USHER | SEATS | INTERMISSION | CURTAIN |