A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Book by Burt Shevelove & Larry Gelbart
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Performed by Steve Ross, Keith Savage & Company
Directed by Rona Waddington
Drayton Entertainment Production
Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend
August 13 to 31, 2008
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

Solid Cast Keeps Old Hit Fresh

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Forum is the fourth and final show of the season at Huron Country Playhouse and with it, Drayton Entertainment has another hit. Staging four musicals in a row has been a departure from the norm for the Grand Bend theatre, but it has certainly been successful. Each production – My Fair Lady, Sorry I’m Canadian, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – has been exceptionally good, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum continues that streak.

The zany farce first opened on Broadway in 1962, and some of the gags are showing their age. However, this excellent cast is able to pull off the humour every time, just because these are very funny people. They bring together all the elements of farce – running in and out of slamming doors, posing as other people, mistaken identities, and just plain silliness. Add to the farce some great singing and dancing and you have a good evening of entertainment.

This was one of Steven Sondheim’s earliest efforts in music and lyrics, and while the songs don’t have the rich storytelling of later Sonheim, they provide plenty of laughs, and the tunes are catchy. The opening number “Comedy Tonight” sets the tone for the show.

Huron Country Playhouse favourite Keith Savage just has to walk on the stage and the audience starts to howl. Savage plays Hysterium, a rather hysterical slave. Another audience pleaser is 80-year-old Kenneth Wickes playing Erronius, who is travelling the world searching for his children who were stolen in infancy by pirates. Wickes only needs to hobble onto the stage and look at the audience to get a laugh.

After several years at Stratford, Londoner Kyle Blair is back at Huron Country Playhouse. With his clear tenor voice and boyish good looks, he is the perfect Hero. The object of his affection is Philia played by Elena Juatco who was last year’s Miss Saigon.

The three Protean who double up in various roles are all very adept at physical comedy. The courtesans from the house of ill repute are amazing dancers and the audience is treated to a sample of their talents. The lovely young ladies are there for those “who have no interest in pirates”.

Each cast member has an impressive biography and extensive experience. The result is a great team with perfect comedic timing, expressive faces and slapstick ability.

Credit goes to director Rona Waddington for selecting this strong cast and giving the show a fresh feel. Choreographer Gino Berti and Music Director Charles T. Couzens also deserve credit for keeping the production lively.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is just plain fun – as the song says “weighty decisions will just have to wait” and there is indeed “something for everyone”.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum continues with eight shows a week until August 31 at Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend. Tickets are available at the Huron Country Playhouse box office at (519) 238-6000, Drayton Entertainment at 1-888-449-4463, or check out www.draytonentertainment.com

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