BWW Review: City Theatre Presents Furiously Funny FORUM
Inspired by the farces of the ancient Roman playwright Plautus (251-183 BC), the musical tells the bawdy story of Pseudolus, a crafty slave, struggling to win the hand of a beautiful but slow-witted courtesan named Philia, for his young master, Hero, in exchange for freedom. The plot displays many classic elements of farce, including puns, characters barely missing each others entrances and exits, cases of mistaken identity, and satirical comments on social class. The title comes from the line that vaudeville comedians used to begin a story: "A funny thing happened on the way to the theater".
The musical's original 1962 Broadway run won several Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Book (Musical).
Scheming slaves, mistaken identities and courtesans each with their own gimmick deliver on the promise of the famous opening number, that there will be comedy tonight.
Director and Choreographer Missy Barnes clearly understands the nature of both farce and vaudeville and delivers a snappily paced production with some clever choreography. Andy Berkovsky's set is smart and functional, though I would have liked physical doors to support the tradition of slamming doors so necessary to farce. Clifford Bond has done a great job with the musical direction and delivers a big sound from his cast... and I have to say it was refreshing to see a musical done without miking the performers. This is a musical from the era before microphones were in use when performers had to have voices that could sell a song all by themselves. And this cast does that in spades. I would have liked the combo serving as orchestra to have had a touch of brass to it, but that's just a preference from being very familiar with how the show sounds with a full orchestra. I also found the costumes of Bert Flanagan interesting in that they were sort of Burlesqued versions of Roman attire. Taking it from that angle was a very interesting way to approach the show.
There are some really great performances in this cast of 18. R. Michael Clinkscales, a comic actor of rubber face and body with enough charm for ten, delivers a slick and funny Pseudolus. Richard B. Hall is delightfully goofy as Hero, Pseudolus' master. Becky Musser is winsome and winning as the slow witted Philia, the courtesan next door. Jennifer Tucker does a terrific job, and possesses a terrific belter's voice, as Domina, Hero's mother. Bill Claussen also delivers a solid Lycus.
As the Protean's (and many other characters), Nicholas Gollihugh, Gregory Driscoll and Creighton Moench, are hilarious with some great physical comedy. While Devin Adams does a solid job as Miles Gloriosus, he is leaner and sleeker than the muscle-bound types that usually play the role, which lessens the towering, imposing nature of the character.
The performance that walks away with the evening, however, belongs to Jeff Phillips as Hysterium. Phillips is riotously funny and completely steals the show in "I'm Calm" and the reprise to "Lovely". His performance alone is worth the price of admission.
If you're looking for an evening of old style Broadway musical entertainment, you can't go wrong with A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
Running time: Approximately Two Hours with one intermission.
A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, produced by City Theatre (3823 Airport Blvd. Suite D., Austin, Tx.)
August 28 - September 20, 2015. Thursdays - Saturdays 8:00 p.m., Sundays 5:30 pm.
Tickets $20 - 35 plus service fees. For reservations, call 512-524-2870 or e-mail email@example.com. / www.citytheatreaustin.org