It’s been 50 years since Stephen Sondheim’s A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM won its first Tony Award, and 50 years since the Chapel Street Players held their very first FUNdraiser, an annual fundraising event and show to benefit the CSP. 1963 also marked the year CSP fixture Renee G. O’Leary first became a board member. To celebrate O’Leary’s longtime contributions, as well as the golden anniversary of the annual event, the FUNdraiser is now officially the Renee G. O’Leary FUNdraiser; O’Leary herself, still active with the CSP, appears in the comical FORUM.
FORUM is an old-fashioned comedy musical — and in case you’re unsure that it will, in fact, be funny, it opens with the entertaining prologue “Comedy Tonight,” led by Peter Briccotto as Prologus (he also plays a lead role in the show itself as Pseudolus). Fans of Arden’s New Candlelight Theater will be familiar with Briccotto; it’s nice to see him take center stage for his CSP debut.
The setting is Ancient Rome, the story (inspired by the ancient Roman farces of Plautus) involves three households: the house of Senex (Pete Matthews), his wife Domina (Tina M. Sheing), their son Hero (Dennis Connor), and several slaves, including protagonist Pseudolus and head slave Hysterium (Dominic Santos); The House of Lycus, where Marcus Lycus (Walt Osbourne) lives with a bevy of young female courtesans he buys and sells; and the house of Erronius (Renee G. O’Leary), which sits vacant for much of the story as its owner searches for his grown children, kidnapped at infancy by pirates.
Pseudolus, desperate to gain his freedom by any means necessary, makes a deal with Hero to unite him with his crush from afar, the beautiful Philia (Ashley Wright), the virgin courtesan of Lycus who’s been sold to Captain Miles Glorius. As expected, hijinks ensue, with high doses of visual comedy, door-slamming, and wordplay.
Briccotto is perfect as the crafty Pseudolus, as is Santos as the responsible, excitable Hysterium, who (by design) frequently steals scenes. Connor is very funny as Hero, especially when reacting to other characters on stage, including Wright as the ditsy-but-sweet ancient Roman barbie doll. The entire cast, whether lead or ensemble, delivers consistent laughs, and the crowd responded enthusiastically throughout. Although there are a few post-60s anachronistic updates, this is essentially old-style satire with nothing too controversial or edgy for modern audiences.
There’s still one weekend left to catch this crowd-pleasing show and help the FUNdraiser.
A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart
Directed by Brian M. Touchette
June 7-22, 2013
Chapel Street Players
27 N. Chapel Street,
Newark, DE 19711