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Stephen Sondheim's "A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum"
Directed by Michael Williams
Theater Down South
Insular Life Theater
Alabang, Muntinlupa City
Running till Saturday, October 30, 2010

Theater Down South (TDS), a newbie community theatre company primarily established to promote theatre-going habit among Southern Manila's denizens, claims that the group has been playing it safe with family-oriented productions as it develops new audiences. Recent productions of "Treasure Island", "Rapunzel", and an original take on Cinderella's classic tale "The Princess and the Red Carp" looked like an onslaught of wholesome entertainment.

If you'd ask us, adding 80th-birthday boy Stephen Sondheim's adult musical comedy and politically incorrect "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" to the list could be deemed too disturbing, especially when there were actors, still barely in their twenties, who were on that stage. But what the heck, Sondheim's "Forum" is all satirical wit and old-fashioned vaudeville comedy -- the audience at the Sunday matinee laughed uproariously!

Theatre stalwart Michael Williams mentors his junior thespian apprentices, and contributes a lot to this delightful madness! In "Forum", Mr. Williams challenges his young actors to create riotously irreverent Roman inspired characters with some of them very well executed on stage: Carla Gonzalez's brainless and virginal Philia; Gary Junsay's philandering and white-haired Senex; Celine Beatrice Fabie's convincingly domineering wife Domina; Mikey Llorin's loud and bulky proud warrior Miles Gloriosus; Zig Hagamann's effeminate courtesan procurer Marcus Lycus; Nathan Zamesa's towering courtesan in drag Gymnasia; Mike Villanueva's blithely athletic old man Erronius; Joonee Garcia and Kathy Lindain's eerie twin courtesans Geminae; and Belle Arguelles's wild and curvaceous girl for hire Tintinabula are irresistibly show-stopping acts.

We can't say the same about the main actors though. Chino Veguillas as Pseudolus and Jacob Gayanelo as Hero both possess strong singing voices, especially Mr. Gayanelo whose chest voice is very well-placed. Mr. Veguillas's take on Roman slave and perennial trickster Pseudolus often clashes with that of Benjor Catindig's hysterical housekeeper Hysterium -- it's like they're both competing for the audience's attention (or do vaudeville comedians traditionally perform in the same way?) On the other hand, Mr. Gayanelo acts like the only unanimated character on stage. Playing a lovelorn "Romeo" in a musical comedy doesn't need to be too predictably uptight.

Nonetheless, Mr. Veguillas (who was last seen in the plays "Master Class" and "The Princess and the Red Carp") and Mr. Gayanelo (who's debuting in this production) are two very promising young talents.

"Forum" is Mr. Sondheim's first attempt to write the music and lyrics for a Broadway musical in the early '60s. With book penned by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, the musical won the Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical. The popular ensemble piece "Comedy Tonight" is from this show.

"Forum" tells the story of Roman slave Pseudolus and his ceaseless efforts to win his freedom by helping young master Hero, the teenage son of Senex and Domina, woo the woman he loves -- the naive courtesan Philia. But there's a hitch, Philia's procurer Marcus Lycus has already sold the young virgin for 500 minae to Roman gladiator Marcus Gloriosus.

Utilizing the vaudeville's madcap comedic elements, the show contains countless slapstick jokes and slamming of doors, several character disguises, and satirical comments on different social classes.

TDS's production of Mr. Sondheim's "Forum" features Joonee Garcia's capable musical direction; Deana Aquino's choreography for non-dancers; Niki delos Reyes-Torres's simple yet vibrant production design; Martin Esteva's lighting design; and Julius Aguilar's sound design.

The members of the cast are accompanied by canned orchestral music scores.

Catch the last performance of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" on Saturday, October, 30, 2010 at the Insular Life Theater Alabang. For tickets, contact Ticketworld at tel. no. (632)891-9999 or visit www.ticketworld.com.ph or TDS at tel. no. (632)505-6380 or mobile no. (63916)643-6976 or visit www.theaterdownsouth.com.

Photos by Alejandro Rivera

Photo Flash: Certainly 'Morals Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight!'

Photo Flash: Certainly 'Morals Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight!'
Chino Veguillas, Jacob Gayanelo

Photo Flash: Certainly 'Morals Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight!'
Belle Arguelles, Daryl Zarraga

Photo Flash: Certainly 'Morals Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight!'
Zig Hagamann, Chino Veguillas

Photo Flash: Certainly 'Morals Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight!'
Carla Gonzalez

Photo Flash: Certainly 'Morals Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight!'
Kahna Velasco, Chino Veguillas

Photo Flash: Certainly 'Morals Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight!'
Jonee Garcia, Kathy Lindain, Chino Veguillas

Photo Flash: Certainly 'Morals Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight!'
Marie Delgado, Chino Veguillas

Photo Flash: Certainly 'Morals Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight!'
Zig Hagamann, Nathan Zamesa, Chino Veguillas

Photo Flash: Certainly 'Morals Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight!'
Chino Veguillas, Gary Junsay

Photo Flash: Certainly 'Morals Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight!'
Benjor Catindig, Chino Veguillas, Gary Junsay

Photo Flash: Certainly 'Morals Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight!'
Benjor Catindig, Chino Veguillas, Nathan Zamesa, Dave Corpin

Photo Flash: Certainly 'Morals Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight!'
Mikey Llorin and cast

Photo Flash: Certainly 'Morals Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight!'
"Forum" cast

Photo Flash: Certainly 'Morals Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight!'
Celine Beatrice Fabie, Gary Junsay, Benjor Catindig

Photo Flash: Certainly 'Morals Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight!'
Jacob Gayanelo

Photo Flash: Certainly 'Morals Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight!'
Micko Yabut, Benjor Catindig

Photo Flash: Certainly 'Morals Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight!'
Mikey Lorin and cast

Photo Flash: Certainly 'Morals Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight!'
Celine Beatrice Fabie

Photo Flash: Certainly 'Morals Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight!'
Marie Delgado

Photo Flash: Certainly 'Morals Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight!'
Nathan Zamesa

Photo Flash: Certainly 'Morals Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight!'

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Oliver Oliveros Oliver Oliveros received a master's degree in public relations and corporate communication from New York University while serving as regional director for BroadwayWorld.com, where he accepted an Award for Excellence: Best International Editor in 2013.

For nearly 20 years, Oliver has been handling public relations, corporate communication, and integrated marketing communications for numerous brands (including Pepsi), Broadway shows, Broadway stars, non-profit organizations, and mainstream celebrities.

He is also the editor-in-chief for Fil-Am Who’s Who, a monthly magazine that tells the real-life success stories of Filipino Americans from the New York Tri-State area.


 
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