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Transcript: Connie Meng Review aired Wednesday, August 22, 2001

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

at Depot Theatre, Westport, NY, Fri., August 17 through Sun., September 9, 2001

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM is, without question, capital F funny. With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart it's a slick, giddy vaudeville romp. By the way, Larry Gelbart, who also wrote MASH, is the originator of the famous show business line, "If Hitler's still alive, I hope he's out of town with a try-out of a new musical." The current production at the Depot Theatre does justice to the material. Even Amtrak cooperated; the N.Y. train arrived and departed during intermission.

David Berendes' set works well and the mosaic floor is beautiful. I'm always amazed at how creative he can be with such a small space. The Roman house numbers had me giggling before the show started. Jean Brookman's costumes are clever, and she's to be commended for the matching shorts under the tunics. Kudos to whoever designed the suitcases; it's quite a trick to get a laugh with luggage.

Norma Curley does a great job both playing a tough score and keeping the tempos moving. She has obviously emphasized the need for near-perfect diction, as the lyrics, which are full of word play and clever rhymes, are fully understandable. One of my favorites is "The situation's fraught—fraughter than I thought." One addition did disturb me a bit. I felt the underscoring during the case and death scene was unnecessary and tended to detract from the action. However, another addition was a wonderful idea. The courtesans, who usually don't have much to do except dance and look gorgeous, in this production happen to be terrific singers. Ms. Curley has done some really nice vocal arrangements for these ladies and they sing both the Overture and the Entre' Acte in close harmony.

Now to the actors—the show is very well cast. There's no point in trying to do this show unless you have a bunch of basically funny people to begin with. You can't learn good comic timing—you either have it or you don't. Well, this cast has it.

Roger Raines is a very funny Pseudolus, especially when he's playing a Soothsayer. He does an excellent job on his solo numbers, which contain some real tongue-twisting lyrics. I'd like to see him extend his death scene. I've seen productions where it lasted at least three times as long.

Hero, played by Brett Glazer, has a very good voice and, what's unusual in that role, a nice flair for comedy. Last season I saw him in WIT at Syracuse Stage—quite a switch!

Niels Miller, who was outstanding last summer in BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE, is outstanding again this year as Erronius. He's not only very funny, he's a wonderfully responsive actor.

Marcus Lycus, the procurer, well-played and sung by Scott Robertson, has one of my all-time favorite lines. At one point he says to his slave eunuch, "How many times have I told you never to fan the girls when they're still wet? You'll never learn—you'll be a eunuch all your life."

I certainly don't intend to slight the rest of the cast, but simply don't have time to mention them all. Suffice it to say they're all very good, including the Courtesans and the hard working and multi-talented Proteans. Have I mentioned they all sing well too?

Director Jennifer Jones and Choreographer Laurie Brongo have done a really good job of putting all the pieces together. They've added some clever extra touches, such as the miniature soldiers and all the pirate appearances.

Anyone who's seen FORUM and didn't laugh much should go see this production. I can't resist quoting a dialogue exchange regarding a plague on Crete. "Is it contagious? Ever hear of a plague that wasn't?" The show is tuneful, funny, and bawdy - with "something for everybawdy."

On a scale of one to five, the Depot Theatre production of A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM gets four and three/fourths boxcars and a caboose. For North Country Public Radio, I'm Connie Meng.