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

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entire contents copyright 2006 by Tony Annicone

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

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Academy Players last show of their 50th season 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 woman, Erronia who is searching for her missing children, courtesans and the Proteans who play soldiers and various citizens in the show. Director Michael Farrelly chooses the best 23 cast members to portray these wacky characters and musical director Stephen DeCesare not only plays keyboards and conducts his topnotch orchestra but taught all the difficult Sondheim songs to the cast with ease, making this show into a joyous comic romp for a very appreciative audience.

Michael pays attention to every detail as a director including blocking and line interpretations. His brings out the best in cast members and the finished product always reflects his hard work. Stephen brings a polished sound to both the orchestra and cast with his expertise as musical director. Mary Gendreau creates the dance numbers for the show. The courtesan numbers are her best work while some of the solo, duet and trio numbers could have used less choreography to make the meaning of the lyrics come through more clearly. The gorgeous set of Roman columns and the three houses was by Bill Zech while all the lovely costumes were gathered by Jackie Granja. Tech director Dennis Pouliot kept the sound and lighting cues moving smoothly throughout the entire show while stage manager, Elaine Morton kept things running smoothly onstage and backstage. The multitude of props were handled by Barbara Green and her assistant, Dawn Rose.

Frank Borrelli gives a tour de force performance as Pseudolus, delivering his multitude of lines and songs perfectly. His facial expressions are priceless and his energy is boundless as he captivates the audience. Frank's voice is astounding, too. His numbers include the lead vocals in the opening "Comedy Tonight", the duets, "Free" and "Lovely" reprise, the trio,"Pretty Little Picture"and the hilarious quartet number "Everybody Ought to Have a Maid". Bravo on a topnotch performance. High school junior Michael Marchak tackles the role of Hero who falls madly in love with Philia played by Jamie Dellorco. It is love at first sight. She get to show off her soprano voice in "Lovely" where she sings about not being to do anything but just look beautiful and in "That'll Show Him" where she sings about how she will be thinking of Hero while her intended groom woos her.

The befuddled father, Senex is played by Carl DeSimone who is very funny in pursuit of the virgin he thinks is his new maid and in his misunderstanding the craziness around him. He shows off his strong baritone voice in the duet, "Impossible" where he and Hero sing about their contrasting views of wooing the virgin and in the quartet, "Maid" song which almost stops the show. His shrewish wife, Domina is well played by Elizabeth Nolan who shrieks, bullies and bosses Senex around. Her powerful voice can be heard during her song "That Dirty Old Man" where she sings about wanting to wring her husband's neck while still yearning for him. The high-strung servant Hysterium is played wonderfully by college senior, Tim Caouette. His antics are hysterical and he gets to show off his singing voice in "I'm Calm" while he is really a nervous wreck and in "Lovely" reprise which he sings while clad in a white dress and brunette wig while disguised as the virgin. Tim does the latter number with Frank and it will definitely leave you in stitches. The senile Erronia who lost her children to pirates is humorously played by Alex Lorraine. Her various entrances are accompanied by Chariots of Fire and Bonanza music. The pompous ass Captain is well played by Tom Epstein. His powerful baritone voice is used in "Bring Me My Bride" and in the "Funeral Sequence". In the latter number the lovely courtesans do a veil dance. The dancing and singing courtesans are played by Jackie Granja, Christine Romanello, Kym Chevian, Trish St. Laurent, Amanda Castore, Tiffany Ritter and Kristeen Kates. The Proteans and soldiers are well played by Rick Casey, Lauren Cote, Michael Jozefowicz, Kevin Broccoli, Christian Grundel and Nicholas Thibeault. The hilarious eunuch is played by the scene stealing Bob deMattio. So for a trip back to two hundred years before the Christian Era in Rome be sure to catch "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" in East Greenwich, RI in 2006..

"A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to The Forum" (12 - 21 May)
Odeum Theatre, 59 Main Street, EAST GREENWICH R I
1 (401) 885-6910

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide