The musical comedy A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum has been around long enough to qualify as a classic. The 1962 show (based on Roman comedies by Plautus from 2,000 years earlier) is a well-oiled script (by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart) with memorable music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; in fact, it was the first show for which he wrote both the tunes and the words.
A crafty slave named Pseudolus (Bernie Cardell) desires his freedom and discovers a way to get it. His young master, Hero (Rob Rehburg), is in love with Philia (Kelly Twedt), a courtesan in the house of Marcus Lycus (Bob Leggett). Pseudolus bargains with Hero that if he can get Philia for him, Hero will grant his freedom.
Philia has already been sold to the great warrior Miles Gloriosus (Larry Davis), which means a lot of conniving and weaseling will need to be done — especially with fellow slave Hysterium (Tyler Collins) keeping a watchful eye on things while Hero’s parents are away.
Most will recognize some of its songs: from “Comedy Tonight,” which sets the tone of the evening, to the very humorous (and endlessly reprised) “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid” or the tongue-in-cheek “Lovely” between a young man and woman who don’t know much about love.
Vintage Theatre Productions uses Forum as its very first musical, an excellent choice. It is an enjoyably naughty show with no other intention than to be funny, which it is. “Everybody’s heard of it. Even if they’ve never seen or even really heard of it, they think they have when they hear the title,” says co-artistic director and star Bernie Cardell.
Collins as Hysterium is a remarkably spry fellow, managing to seem both frantic and doddering at the same time. Rehburg is appropriately moony and grinning as Hero, with Don DeVeux and Boni McIntyre handing in strong performances as his parents.
Twedt as Philia was ditzy and believably dumb. She portrayed the empty loveliness of a woman who isn’t bothered by a single thought in her head.
As for Pseudolus, the show hardest working role, Cardell is playing a role that usually goes to younger men, but for a comedy role like this, it’s the funny bone that’s important, not the age. His comic timing is always right on and he performs equally well holding attention center stage and supporting others when it is their turn to shine.
Some particular standouts in the smaller roles were Helene Luna as Tintinabula and Paul Jacquith as one of the three Proteans. The two never failed to shine during their few moments in the spotlight.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum runs until August 8, 2010. Click here to see official showtimes and dates or to purchase tickets.
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