A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum Review
By Jake Freeman
Making its debut and for a limited time only at Melbourne’s Chapel Off Chapel, is the high energy, and hilarious production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum takes comedy back to its roots, combining situations from 2000-year-old comedies of Roman playwright, Plautus, with the energy of classic vaudeville. A fast-paced, witty, irreverent farce, it is considered one of the funniest musicals ever written. A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to the Forumtells the story of an Ancient Roman slave, Pseudolus, who schemes to win his freedom by helping his young master Hero win the affections of beautiful courtesan Philia. The play is known for its many classic elements of farce comedy: disguised characters, puns, mistaken identity, interwoven sub plots and so on.
The Australian stage production of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum is produced by Watch This, Australia’s first and only Sondheim repertory company, in honour of the show’s creator Stephen Sondheim, whose credits include Company, Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods.
A Funny Thing made its Broadway debut in 1962 starring Zero Mostel and Jack Gilford followed by a film version 1966 with both men in the lead roles along with Buster Keaton and Michael Crawford. There have been several Australian productions since its debut here in 1964. Mel Hillman directed this show and for the first time with an all-female cast.
The cast were simply brilliant from start to finish. It was difficult to spot any flaws in their performance, especially given some played multiple characters with different accents and costumes making the seamless transition within seconds. They gave it their all, most notably Charmaine Gorman (Pseudolus) who narrated and emceed the show from beginning to end with strong vocal performances. Mel O’Brien (Philia) showcased her comic timing, teasing and twitching as the lust interest of both Hero (Milo Hartill) and the Roman Soldier, Miles Gloriosus (Luisa Scrofani).
Kristie Nguy provided excellent comic relief switching multiple characters from a Roman soldier to a courtesan. All cast members had an incredible vocal talent. Some of my favourites of the night included “Comedy Tonight” and “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid”. The creative team also did a great job of transforming the stage into Ancient Rome, complete with black and white mosaic tiles, bust sculptures of previous emperors and towering Corinthian columns.
Like The 2000-Year-Old Man and History of the World, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is a fast paced and nonstop laugh fest piece of theatre satirizing ancient times through a 20th century lens that is being appreciated well in the 21st century.
The Australian stage production of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum is produced by Watch This and directed by Mel Hillman with music direction by Trevor Jones. The cast is led by Charmaine Gorman (Pseudolus/Prologus Act 1), Milo Hartill (Hero), Jacqui Hoy (Hysterium), Mel O’Brien (Philia), Sophie Weiss (Domina), Luisa Scrofani (Miles Gloriosus), Cathy Woodhouse (Senex), Sarahlouise Younger (Marcus Lycus), Judith Roberts (Erronius) and Kristie Nguy (Courtesans).
A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum is now playing for a limited season until and including Sunday 24 September at Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran.
The running time of the show is 2 hours and 20 minutes, including a 20-minute intermission.
The performance contains adult themes and is suitable for mature audiences.
To learn more about the production and purchase tickets to A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, go to – https://chapeloffchapel.com.au/show/a-funny-thing-happened-on-the-way-to-the-forum/