Gulfshore Playhouse Brings To Life One Of Broadway's Funniest Musicals
Gulfshore Playhouse, Naples' premier professional regional theater, travels back to Ancient Rome for its second production of the 2018-19 season, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." The Tony Award-winning farce written by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, takes the stage Nov. 17 to Dec. 30.
The show's 10-member ensemble tells the tale of Pseudolus, a devious slave who makes a deal to win his freedom by playing matchmaker for his lovesick master, Hero. Filled with pompous generals, domineering parents, and wiley courtesans, this gender-swapped musical is a non-stop laugh-fest.
Overseeing the production is Director Darren Katz, who returns to Gulfshore Playhouse following his success with last season's hit, "Leading Ladies." New York City-based Katz specializes in the development of new musicals, and unique storytelling rooted in autobiography, and previously served as an associate director for Broadway's "The Lion King."
"The question was how to take this hilarious comedy from 1962 - with the only female characters being a loud domineering wife and a bunch of mindless courtesans - and present it to a contemporary audience in a way that audiences would fall in love with it all over again," said Katz. "The answer was to cast phenomenal music theater talents and then jumble it all up. Sometimes women will play the men and sometimes men will play the women. So, when you hear a song about a bunch of old men having their way with the maid, it's coming from women portraying men. We're hearing the song in a way we never heard before."
Famed Choreographer Adam Cates will also lead the creative team for "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." Cates served as associate choreographer of the hit Broadway musical "Anastasia" and the 2016-17 Gulfshore Playhouse production of "My Fair Lady."
"Told through a lens that speaks to a 2018 sensibility while still honoring the original production, this is truly some of the most dynamic casting of this show ever," said Cates. "So, we felt no reason to do any stock version and instead see this as a new, fun opportunity to play up music and dance that really highlights the casts uniqueness."
Making her Gulfshore Playhouse debut as Pseudolus, Kristen Mengelkoch, previously starred in the First National Tour of the Tony Award-winning musical "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder."
"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" also features Broadway actress Stephanie Pope, who starred in the 1996 Broadway production of "Forum" with Nathan Lane; straight-from-New York talent Michelle Ragusa of Broadway's "Young Frankenstein," "Urinetown," "Ragtime," "Titanic," "A Class Act," and "Cyrano;" Jason Simon, who was recently seen in New York as Edna in "Hairspray" at the Argyle Theatre and the Maitre d' in Susan Stroman's production of "The Merry Widow" at the Metropolitan Opera; and Julia Johanos from the 2016-17 Gulfshore Playhouse production of "My Fair Lady" as well as Belle in "Beauty and the Beast" and Katherine in "Newsies" - both at Fireside Theatre.
Playing the role of Hero is Adante Carter, whose previous work includes "Sweetee" at Signature Theatre NYC and "Pete the Cat" at Lucille Lortel Theatre. Cast members also include John Wascavage of the National Tour of "The Suspects in Murder for Two;" Mat Davies from the touring production of "Neverland;" Marika Abe of "King and I" at Maltz Jupiter Theatre; and Victor Caroli, who previously served as a resident actor at the Cleveland Play House as well as at the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival.
Production staff also includes musical genius Matt Aument as music supervisor; Music Director Adrian Ries; Lighting Designer Jimmy Lawlor; Scenic Designer Kristen Martino; and Production Stage Manager Jamie A. Eckhold.
Evening shows begin at 8 p.m.; matinees begin at 3 p.m. Show subscriptions are available and include priority seating, exclusive events and discounted pricing. Tickets range from $20-$73; all tickets are $35 two hours before a performance. For purchase information, visit www.GulfshorePlayhouse.org or contact 866-811-4111.
Free pre-show discussions take place Nov. 18 and 21 and Dec. 9, 16, and 19, where Gulfshore Playhouse artistic staff lead conversations about themes and topics related to the production. Audience members can also dig deeper following the show with a Curtain Conversation on Nov. 25.
Specialty nights are also available for each production and include 'Family Night' every Tuesday, 'Millennial Night' every Friday and 'Cast Party' celebrations on the final Saturday of each production.
Gulfshore Playhouse is passionately committed to enriching the cultural landscape of the region by producing professional theater to the highest artistic standards and providing unique educational opportunities to diverse groups of people in a spirit of service, adventure and excitement. The Playhouse's work is inspired by a belief in the magic of theater to expand the imagination, challenge the senses, provoke discussion, and revitalize in audiences an understanding of their common humanity. This belief drives the care with which Gulfshore Playhouse treats its artists, audiences, students, staff, and members of the greater community.
This focus is also at the core of its newest endeavor - the creation of a cultural landmark facility in downtown Naples. Plans are currently underway for the new Gulfshore Playhouse Theatre and Education Center at Goodlette-Frank Road and First Avenue South, which will include two theaters and an education wing to support programming for children, adults and families.
For more information about Gulfshore Playhouse, visit www.GulfshorePlayhouse.org or call 239-261-PLAY (7529).