A FUNNY THING...FORUM Opens the Walnut's 209th Anniversary Season
Walnut Street Theatre opens its landmark 209th season with the Tony Award-winning Best Musical, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. Directed by, and starring, Frank Ferrante, with choreography by Michelle Gaudette, this production begins previews on September 5th, opens on September 13th and runs through October 22nd on the Walnut's Mainstage.
This classic musical is fast-paced, witty, irreverent and one of the funniest Broadway shows ever written! A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum follows the story of Pseudolus, a crafty slave who struggles to win the hand of a beautiful, but slow-witted, courtesan named Philia for his young master, Hero, in exchange for freedom. The plot twists and turns with cases of mistaken identity, slamming doors, and a bevy of beautiful showgirls. This unforgettable, hysterical musical comedy will have you laughing all the way to the Forum with "something for everyone, a comedy tonight!"
A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum premiered on Broadway on May 1, 1962. The production won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Author of a Musical. The show has had two Broadway revivals, one in 1972, and again in 1996 starring Nathan Lane. Its West End premiere came in 1963, followed by a 1986 revival. The show had a limited-run at London's Royal National Theatre in 2004, which was nominated for the Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production. The show also became a film in 1966 with Zero Mostel recreating his starring role from the Broadway production.
A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum was the first Broadway show for which Stephen Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics. Prior to Forum, Sondheim wrote lyrics for West Side Story in 1957, with a score by Leonard Bernstein. Since Forum, Sondheim's work has had a tremendous impact on American musical theatre, with shows including Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods. He has been recognized with thirteen Tony Award nominations, winning eight, including the Lifetime Achievement Award. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Sunday in the Park with George in 1985, and has won numerous Drama Desk and New York's Outer Critics' Circle Awards. Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart wrote the book. Shevelove was born in Newark, NJ and has credits including No, No, Nanette, for which he won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical. Gelbart's Broadway credits include co-writer of City of Angels. He also penned screenplays including Tootsie and was the creator of the award-winning television series M*A*S*H.
Director and actor Frank Ferrante returns to the Walnut as director and as Pseudolus. On the Walnut's Mainstage, Ferrante has directed shows including Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, Broadway Bound and Lost in Yonkers. He directed and performed in shows including Laughter On The 23rd Floor, The Sunshine Boys and Groucho: A Life in Revue. He made his Off- Broadway debut in Groucho, for which he earned New York's Theatre World Award and an Outer Critic's Circle Award nomination. He also performed in the show's West End run, for which he was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award. At Walnut's Independence Studio on 3, Ferrante wrote and starred in By George and directed the world premiere of Old Wicked Songs, a subsequent Pulitzer Prize finalist. Ferrante continues to perform his comic creation 'The Caesar' in cirque/cabaret venues worldwide, including with Teatro ZinZanni. John Daniels takes the podium as music director and Michelle Gaudette joins Ferrante as choreographer. This is Daniels' second season as music director at the Walnut, having served as the associate conductor for six years. Gaudette, a former Rockette, has previously choreographed at the Walnut for productions including South Pacific, 9 To 5: The Musical, In the Heights, Grease, Fiddler on the Roof, State Fair, Man of La Mancha, Carousel and Evita.
The Walnut welcomes back Brandon O'Rourke as the romantic Hero. O'Rourke was most recently seen on Walnut's Mainstage in the title role of Peter and the Starcatcher. Additional Walnut performances include Oliver!, Les Misérables, Carousel, Peter Pan and State Fair. Hero's parents, Senex and Domina will be played by Ron Wisniski and Mary Martello. The duo reunites onstage, after appearing at the Walnut together as Monsignor O'Hara and Mother Superior in Sister Act. Martello has been seen in numerous Walnut productions, including last season's The Importance of Being Earnest in which she played Lady Bracknell.
Scott Greer returns to the Walnut as the loyal Hysteruim, slave to Senex and Domina. Walnut audiences will remember Greer from his appearances in Laughter on the 23rd Floor, Les Misérables, Of Mice and Men and Oliver!. The young, beautiful Philia will be played by Alanna J. Smith. In addition to playing the lead in the wildly popular WST for Kids show Fancy Nancy the Musical, Smith's Walnut credits include The Importance of Being Earnest, The Wizard of Oz and A Christmas Story the Musical. A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum marks Fran Prisco's 30th production at the Walnut, with credits including Saturday Night Fever, The Wizard of Oz and South Pacific. He'll play Lycus, the owner of the house of courtesans. Bill Van Horn, another Walnut veteran, will play Erronius. Van Horn has been seen most recently at the Walnut in The Wizard of Oz and A Christmas Story the Musical. Warrior Miles Gloriosus will be played by Nichalas L. Parker. Parker played a different type of warrior when he was seen as the Lion in last season's production of The Wizard of Oz.
The Proteans will be played by the comedic trio Ben Dibble (Saturday Night Fever, Harvey), Jennie Eisenhower (South Pacific, A Christmas Story the Musical) and Dave Jadico (Peter and the Starcatcher). The ensemble includes Walnut veterans Sara Brophy, Anne Connors, Billy D. Hart, Kimberly Maxson, Ellie Mooney and Kerri Rose, who will play an array of characters from soldiers to courtesans.
Creating a colorful set with a playful tone of vaudeville, the Walnut welcomes back Robert Andrew Kovach as Set Designer (South Pacific, High Society, 9 To 5: The Musical). Kovach is joined by Lighting Designer Paul Black (South Pacific, A Christmas Story, Mary Poppins, In the Heights), Costume Designer Mary Folino (South Pacific, Peter and the Starcatcher, A Christmas Story) and Sound Designer Ed Chapman (The Wizard of Oz, In the Heights).
A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum runs at the Walnut September 5 through October 22. Open captioning will be available for the Sunday, October 1st, 7pm performance. This production is sponsored by Louis and Bessie Stein Foundation Fund #2. Media Sponsor is NBC 10, Metro Philadelphia and More FM. For tickets and information, call 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787. Tickets are also available online 24/7 by visiting www.WalnutStreetTheatre.org or Ticketmaster.