The play was Stephen Sondheim’s first venture writing both score and lyrics, and he hit a home run. Larry Gelbart of M*A*S*H* fame adapted the book to stage. With a base like that, expectations are high and this production exceeded my wildest expectations.
The overall production was superb. Casting, orchestra, music, acting and, most of all, energy made this the real deal.
The star of the show was Pseudolus (Zero Mostel, Phil Silvers, Nathan Lane and Jason Alexander all won Tony Awards for their portrayal of the role) played by Brad DePlanche. He was funny, irreverent, coy, and funny (I did say that twice). His sidekick, Hysterium, played by Chris Faith (who was awesome in The Complete Works of Shakespeare – Abridged last year) was manic as ever and could not have been funnier. With double entendres flying, up-to-date additions and physical comedy, these high-energy actors made the time pass extremely quickly. One surprise was the (albeit brief) reference to Fiddler on the Roof. There are more surprises but I won’t ruin them for you.
Carl Wallnau perfectly plays the dirty old man with a virgin in mind and a wife to keep him in line. “Never fall in love during a solar eclipse,” he warns the audience in a side bar. Mike Corr as Marcus Lycus, the buyer and seller of courtesans, was just as slimey as you might suspect. The courtesans were a lot of fun and Gynmasia, played by Laura Keller, was the tallest woman I have ever seen on stage. The three Proteans, who played a number of roles (servants, eunuchs, soldiers and others) were fun to watch and helped build the physical comedy part of the show.
With all its twists and turns A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is a fast-paced, incredibly performed piece. Will you go see it at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival?