Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Michael Weber
Choreographed by Brenda Didier
Musical Director: Linda Madonia
Produced by Porchlight Music Theatre
At Stage 777, Chicago
“Tragedy Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight!”
Farce, vaudeville and manic energy fuel the all-time funniest Musical comedy ever!
A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To the Forum has not been produced in Chicago since the Goodman’s 1988 production. There were two terrific productions in the burbs: 2005 at Marriott Theatre staring the late great Guy Atkins and the 2006 Noble Fool production at Pheasant Run directed by Michael Weber staring Chris Baum. Both productions were fueled by outstanding players with memorable leads.
But, I must report the Porchlight Music Theatre, under the perfectly-cast and expert direction from Michael Weber is the finest A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To the Forum I’ve even seen!
Inspired by the farces of the Roman playwright Plautus, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To the Forum unfolds as a laugh-a-minute gut-bustingly funny theatrical experience! From the opening, Bill Larkin charms us as he instantly gets us to care for him. His complete performance as Pseudolus, the wily, naughty, lovable slave was effective as he challenges us to enter his world of ‘comedy tonight.’ Larkin plays Pseudolus as the sweet rouge determined to gain his freedom in a winning performance in one of the greatest characters every created for the stage! Audiences must relate and care about Pseudolus for the show to work. Larkin’s Pseudolus, the narrator and action instigator, gets us to realize that we’ll see a “Comedy Tonight.” This genius opening number (one of Sondheim’s best) clearly sets up and promises the many laughs that follow. Forum is pure vaudevillian burlesque complete with zingers, sight gags, adlibs as well as terrific songs, tongue-in-cheek characterizations and energetic physical comedy. You’ll laugh until you’re exhausted.
Forum’s story has a whirlwind of mistaken identities, silly disguises and perilous pratfalls containing an outrageous convoluted plot where the devilishly clever slave, Pseudolus becomes matchmaker for Hero (the sweet Miles Blim) in a scheme to win his freedom. Complications galore as Hysterium (the wonderful physical comic Matt Crowle), a horny old man, a warrior and a buyer and seller of courtesans, a nasty wife, a wondering old man in search of his children taken by pirates, a blond virgin who can’t count all converge on a street in ancient Rome to produce a farce, an old-time slapstick comedy filled with outstanding sons, cute bits and wonderful mayhem that has become Broadway’s funniest show ever.
Bill Larkin’s Pseudolus engages the audience with his manic energy, large grins, cute smiles and pointed winks and cute facial expressions added to his fine singing. Larkin deftly delivers all the humor in each scene without getting too mugging or upstaging anyone. He paves the way for the cast to deliver their characters as he aids all the comic scenes. Larkin and Matt Crowle anchor the mayhem. they get help from The Proteans: Jason Grimm, Andrew Lund and Jaymes Osborne. These three changed costumes (and characters) so often and so funny that they need special mention!
The Sondheim’s score contains excellent numbers like “Free,” “Lovely” and the cute vaudeville song “Everybody Ought To Have A Maid” that contains a cute soft-shoe dance. Miles Blim and Sarah Lynn Robinson, a Philia, are the young, cute lovers who land their duet, “Lovely” and the restored number “Echo Song” effectively. The commanding Greg Zawada was a hoot as the vain Roman Captain. With the hilarious Lorenzo Rush, Jr. as Lycus, a timid dealer of courtesans.
Will Clinger was funny as Senex, the sex starved old man and father to Hero. Forum is a showcase for Chicago talent proving that our talent pool is second to none. Michael Weber keeps the humor rolling as we are near overwhelmed by the clever mayhem. The result is one of the funniest Broadway musicals ever. You’ll laugh yourself silly as you appreciate the stage craft and the wonderful perfect timing from the verbal and physical comedy.
The genius of Burt Shevelove & Larry Gelbart’s book together with the fine melodies and witty lyrics by Stephen Sondheim make A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To the Forum play as a hilarious evening of theatre. This show is so much fun that you’ll be swept into the world of Pseudolus as we cheer for him to get his freedom. As a comedy, of course, it has a happy ending. You’ll leave the theatre smiling!
Theatre In Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: April 24, 2015
For more info checkout the A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To the Forum page at theatreinchicago.com
At Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL, call 773-327-5252, www.porchlightmusictheatre.org, tickets $39-$45, Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4 & 8pm, Sundays at 2 pm, running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission, through May 24, 2015.