BWW Reviews: A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM Promises Comedy Tonight and Delivers it Full Force
When I heard The Aerospace Players were going to present A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, I almost decided not to see it as I have seen it twice before and never really understood why the show was just not as funny as it ought to be. Now I know why - those other shows did not have Darrell Clark playing Pseudolus and he made all the difference! Clark's abundant physicality added so much more to the crazy humor of the show that even the silliest jokes seemed new and fresh, generating lots of laughs and when appropriate, sufficient groans.
The original 1962 production ran on Broadway for 964 performances, winning five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and generated several revivals, foreign productions, and a 1966 film version. The main story line tells the tale of a cunning slave, Pseudolus who tries to win his freedom by helping his young master, Hero (Matt Garber), win the hand of a beautiful but slow-witted courtesan, Philia (Angie Asch). These three actors have a lot of fun during Act One, celebrating Philia's "Lovely" persona, Pseudolus' desire to be "Free," and painting a "Pretty Little Picture" of how they want their lives to be. Darrell
Garber and Asch play well off each other's innocence and harmonize beautifully. Clark's realization that being just a slave means everything is free and being free will mean nothing is free gets him pondering his future, but only for a split second. Again, Clark adds to every song with his amazing rubber face and over-the-top energy.
The other slave from the home of Senex, Domina and Hero is Hysterium, played full tilt by Michael DeBartolo. He turns out to be the perfect pawn pulled into Pseudolus' scheme to win his freedom. And in Act Two when it becomes necessary for DeBartolo to dress as Philia and play dead, even his smallest movements and reactions caused roars of laughter in the audience. Senex and Domina are played by veteran TAP performers Kevin Wheaton and Jennifer Greenwood with all the campiness needed to make us feel sorry for the henpecked husband and domineering wife.
Now for the eye candy, a standard component from Vaudeville days. Of course Philia is the loveliest of all the Courtesans, but the others all make a statement in their own ways. Tintinabula (Adrienne Fairley) is a full-figured Nubian goddess who knows how to grab attention with coins shaking on her ample hips. Voluptuous Panacea (Alanna Wheaton) has a face that holds 1,000 promises, and a body that could stop 1,000 men in their tracks. Twins Nancy and Sue Brennan are The Geminae, and the sisters know how to move and mimic each other perfectly. I wonder if The Aerospace Players picked this show just to allow these two lovely ladies to have so much fun onstage as they mirror one another.
Vibrata (Ariel Swift) came in with one shoe hanging on her ankle, but seemed to take it all in stride and not draw more attention to it - a sign of a true pro who knows "the show must go on" even when the unexpected happens. And Jeannine Barba's crop-wielding Dominatrix Gymnasia will certainly bring thoughts of "Fifty Shades of Grey" to mind, and it is no wonder Pseudolus fawns over her like a lovesick puppy.
Now for the ladies, there is tall and handsome Bob Borich as Captain Miles Gloriosus, posturing and prancing around the stage in a short tunic which allows his toned body to be on full display. It certainly makes sense for Philia to marry him as they are the perfect Beauty and Prince Charming physically.
Fortunately for the cast and stage crew, there are no set changes during the show as all the action takes place two hundred years before the Christian era on a day in spring, on a street in Rome in front of the houses of Erronius, Senex, and Lycus. The multi-level houses designed by Henry Moreta allow for actors to open doors and run from place to place, level to level, with the seeming randomness needed for pure farce. Credit director Steve Norris for moving the cast as quickly as possible during these chases sequences, keeping you guessing who is where and with whom. His skill proves that even low comedy with lots of shtick can still entertain audiences of all ages.
Choreographer Lawrence A. Moreno doesn't push the cast too far with movement during the two big numbers in the show, sticking to line movements that work well for all levels of talent. With a live 24-piece orchestra conducted by Joe Derthick and a talented cast, A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM is a hilarious, slapstick farce that lives up to the show's lyrics promising, "Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight!"
A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart. There are just 2 more performances on Friday, July 25 at 8pm and Saturday, July 26 at 8pm at the James Armstrong Theatre, 3330 Civic Center Drive, Torrance, CA 90503.
Ticket prices are $24 for adults and $22 for seniors and students. For advance tickets call the box office at 310-781-7171 or visit www.aeaclubs.org/theater.
About The Aerospace Players:
Composed entirely of volunteers, The Aerospace Players (TAP) is made up of members of the South Bay Community with a passion for theater. They spend many nights a week rehearsing for the show and volunteer their weekends to make costumes and build sets. This dedicated group of talented individuals includes employees from The Aerospace Corporation, LA Air Force Base, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Boeing, Plasma Technology and other local businesses. Many of the cast members in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum are PhDs and are true "rocket scientists" with an enthusiasm for theater.
The Aerospace Players was formed in 1988 with the intent of providing an outlet for Aerospace Corporation and Los Angeles Air Force Base employees and their friends and families to participate in the performing arts. Despite the growth of the group and the increasing caliber of performances, TAP has stayed true to its original goal and showcases many aerospace industry employees on stage in this production.
Photos by John R. Nolan
The cast promises "Comedy Tonight"
"Everybody Ought to Have a Maid" with Darrell Clark, Kevin Wheaton, John R. Nolan, Michael DeBartolo
Capt. Miles Gloriosus (Bob Borich) arrives looking for his bride.
The Roman Soliders support their Captain in his quest for a bride.
Pseudolus (Darrell Clark) fawns over Gymnasia (Jeanine Barba).
Twins Nancy Brennan and Sue Brennan are The Geminae