BWW Review: Cabrillo Presents the Quintessential FORUM
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum/book by Burt Shevelove & Larry Gelbart/ music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim/Cabrillo Music Theatre, Thousand Oaks/directed by Lewis Wilkenfeld/choreographed by John Charron/through February 14
A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum is silliness personified from its zany characters and inane plot contrivances to its corny yet witty dialogue. It is clever farce set to music. Mistaken identities, zippity fast exits and entrances...it has no rhyme or reason but is terribly, terribly funny with belly laughs about every two seconds. Cabrillo's current revival is astonishingly good with a delicious cast and superlative direction from Lewis Wilkenfeld. It's a practically flawless production.
"Comedy Tonight" is what the doctor ordered, and the cast is uniformly top of the heap under Wilkenfeld's sensational pacing and fluid staging. Headed by Nick Santa Maria and Larry Raben as Pseudolus and Hysterium respectively, they keep the laughs, puns, sight gags and every conceivable element of slapstick brimming and over-the-top. Santa Maria reminds one of Jimmy Coco, the late superb comic star; he is a fantabulous rabble-rouser with the audience...pushy, making things happen. Raben has a comic face to die for....its rubbery expressions are a perfect match for this farce. He is also an expert physical comedian as displayed in the wonderful bridal gown scene on the bench. Andrew Metzger also scores as the seedy, lascivious Lycus. He uses his round bearded face and bulging eyes for maximum expressions. David Ruprecht does well with Senex, a most difficult role to keep interesting. Tom Hall is hilarious as Erronius, who obediently and bare-legged makes a 7 time walk around the hills a uniquely comical experience. Handsome Matt Merchant, well-versed in comedy from his many appearances with The Troubadour Theatre Company, keeps Miles Gloriosus the egotistical maniac that he is meant to be... his backward pratfall scene is unforgettable. Tyler Miclean as Hero and Claire Adams as Philia really bring out the innocence - which is not an easy feat amongst the adulterous scene stealers in this show. Elise Dewsberry is terrific in her all too brief scenes as Senex's wife Domina. The three actors who portray the Proteans and Eunuchs are to be lauded for producing hilarity throughout:Pablo Rossil, Jake Novak and Marcus S. Daniel. Kudos as well to the female dancers from the House of Marcus Lycus and to every performer on the stage. Bravo to John Charron for his great, clean lickety-split choreography.
This inane look at social class and mores of ancient Rome reminds us of just how deliciously uncivilized civilizations actually were and still may be, thank heavens. Sondheim's fun score - one of his very first - includes "Comedy Tonight", "Lovely", "Pretty Little Picture", and "Everybody Ought to Have a Maid", among others. The music like the story itself is deliciously inane patter, brilliantly put together as only Sondheim can do.
As many times as I have seen this very funny show, I am in awe of the comic timing that it takes to make it work to the max. It's not only pacing but that split second timing that either slays or falls flat. Well, Cabrillo definitely knocks it out of the park. If you want to laugh your socks off, go see their A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum through February 14 only. Wilkenfeld should be proud of his achievement, as it is one of Cabrillo's finest to date.