Forty-two years after the world was first introduced to Tony-winning Steven Sondheim's vaudevillian farce of a musical, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum still has the charm and hilarity to get a room full of college students and their parents giggling out of their seats. First preformed on Broadway in 1962, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is a mish-mash of three completely separate, classic, Roman comedies. The story centers around Pseudolus (Ryan Cooper '16), a crafty Roman slave around 200 B.C., who attempts to buy his freedom by convincing his love-sick, virgin master, Hero (Jared Reinfeldt '16) that he can help him secure the affection of the beautiful girl-next-door, Philia (Kathryn Raskin '15). However, the house next door just so happens to be a brothel, and the courtesan of Hero's dreams has already been sold to the high bidder, Miles Gloriosus (Arthur Newbould '16), an egotistical, well chiseled, famous Captain of the Roman Army. Antics ensue, and the conglomeration of the three story lines in conjunction with a fantastic ensemble cast has the audience captivated all the way through to the end of the play. When I finally pulled out my phone to check the time as the audience filed out of the auditorium, I was shocked that I had been there for two full hours, not for fear of time wasted, but out of pleasant surprise that I had been so successfully entertained.
While the musical began its run strongly, viewers can be assured that as the cast continues to perform it gets even better, though my expectations for a college-level performance were already exceeded. The entire performance was coherent and well done, and on a more micro level, each component of the play was well thought-out and complimented the experience nicely. The presence of the orchestra below the stage was constantly felt, providing excellent mood and tone for every scene in the show, in addition to the lighting which was noticeably changing throughout the play to ensure the mood of the scene was just right. The addition of such present musical background and lighting changes remained tasteful and complimentary to the entire experience. The set design was impressive, with three, huge house structures filling the entire stage, creating a large central setting for the events of the play to take place. However, the beautiful structures did seem under-utilized by the actors, as in all but a few scenes the action was confined to center stage. The play might have benefitted from a little more use of the scenery, as one of its most memorable scenes exemplified. Courtesans were draped all over one of the buildings as each of the beautiful brothel-ites emerged from the house to a chorus of cat-calls from the balcony and strutted their stuff so scandalously that it would have made a nun faint, the coolest mother blush, and every single freshman boy celebrate like he just found his dad's Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition in the mail.
The cast was incredible, and not enough can be said of how charmingly they came together to pull off this play. Together, all of their singing voices left the audience enjoying each song, instead of waiting for it to end. Performance-wise, there were a few standouts as each and every time Hysterium (Andrew Gaffney '16) came on stage, the crowd was rolling with laughter. The young actor played the older character beautifully and stole the show with his hilarious facial expressions and "why me" attitude.
For parents, the older, married couple Domina (Julianne Quaas '15) and Senex (Chris Pinto '16) bickered and fought all the way until the end of the play. However their stereotypical marriage that had seen better days, and the arising comedy from their believable relationship had the parents in the audience giggling.
Finally, the top-billed Pseudolus, portrayed by Ryan Cooper ('16): While his performance was commendable, his task was not easy. His character is tasked with incorporating the audience throughout the play, and Cooper did so without being pandering or annoying. He also had the job of tying all the story lines together, incorporating the ensemble cast in a way that helped the show flow, and this is where Cooper really impressed. Though it was only opening night, Cooper did a fantastic job of helping the other actors evoke their humor and his comedic timing and stage presence made the play come together very well as a whole with an incredible cast chemistry.
Overall, Forum is hysterical, well put-together, and its irreverent style is part of its charm. It pokes fun at Roman classics, as well as the grandiose vaudeville musicals of the late 19th Century, and its self awareness of just how ridiculous it is being is part of what makes it so great. While the show can only get better over the next performances, it is a hilarious and extremely entertaining spectacle that will have college students and their parents, alike, enjoying themselves for the full two hours. Witness the comedic genius and cabaret song and dance this weekend. Forum is playing at 7:30 nightly at Robsham Theater through Saturday, October 25th, with a matinee on Sunday, October 26th at 2:00 P.M. Buy tickets online at http://www.bc.edu/offices/robsham/ or at the Robsham Ticket Office.
This bio is dedicated to all the teachers that told me
I'd never amount to nothin', to all the people that lived above the
buildings that I was hustlin' in front of that called the police on
me when I was just tryin' to make some money to feed my daughter, it's all good baby baby