by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

A definitive second act hit. Although, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum at the Garry Marshall Theatre, had a not-quite-so-slapstick start.

Hero (Michael Thomas Grant) and Philia (Nicole Kaplan). Photo by Chelsea Sutton.

First weekend up and running, and things seemed to be still coming together as it happens regularly with musicals. Everything was completely right in this classic Sondheim farce about love in ancient Rome, inspired by Roman playwright Plautus (251–183 BC). It just took a while for the hoopla to hammer. (By now, they’ve most likely worked out the kinks).

Forum is a bawdy burlesque about a slave named Pseudolus (Paul C. Vogt) and his attempt to win his freedom, by helping his young master Hero (Michael Thomas Grant), woo Philia (Nicole Kaplan), aka the virginal Cretan prostitute-next-door sold to famous Roman warrior, Miles Glorious (Clayton Snyder), on his way to retrieve her. All is set-up for the side-by-side houses of Sennex, Lycus and the long-abandoned house of Erronius to ‘get busy’.

Courtesans (Liz Bustle, Shamicka Benn, and Vanessa Nichole), Miles Glorious (Clayton Snyder) and Pseudolus (Paul C. Vogt). Photo by Chelsea Sutton.

As a satire on social class, it has its flickering moments. The comedy is functional – at first. As the vaudeville schticks on however, the gags and puns get better, and the hilarity more raucous.

Vogt helms the play splendidly.  While E.K. Dagenfield who plays both Lycus and the suddenly returned Erronius (from a life-long search of his children, stolen at a young age by pirates) punctuate Vogt’s high jinks with some of the best underplayed camp and one-liner delivery that reign in the moments for a perfect punch.  Kevin Symons as Senex who is trying to have sex with Philia as Hero attempts to woo her,  and

Lycus (E.K. Dagenfield), Gymnasia (Shamicka Benn) and Pseudolus (Paul C. Vogt). Photo by Chelsea Sutton.

Ethan Cohn as Hysterium the panicked, not so in charge, servant-in-charge are laughably angsty and frenzied. Two characters though, really raise the level of awesome in the show: Snyder as Glorious turns on the extra brawn and posturing, while Candi Milo as frustrated Roman wife, Domina, ‘gets down’ at the mere sight of the masculine glory that is Glorious (yes, I said that…really).

Much of the stage movement is workable at best.  It’s the chorus/courtesans/soldiers (Shamicka Benn, Liz Bustle and Vanessa Nichole) who bring the pizzaz with show-stopping choreography.  Really the girls have the difficult task of Ziegfeld Follie-ing up all the hoot-n-holler.  And they do it with gusto.

The entire cast is super. The whole business nothing less than zany fun.

Recommended.

Hysterium (Ethan Cohn), Domina (Candi Milo), Hero (Michael Thomas Grant), and Senex (Kevin Symons). Photo by Chelsea Sutton.

Book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Originally produced on Broadway by Harold S. Prince
Directed by Joseph Leo Bwarie

Starring Paul C. Vogt, Candi Milo, Kevin Symons, Nicole Kaplan, Michael Thomas Grant, Ethan Cohn, E.K. Dagenfield, Clayton Snyder, Vanessa Nichole, Shamicka Benn and Liz Bustle

November 17 – December 31, 2017

…and, Joey McIntyre (New Kids On The Block) joins the cast for 3 weeks ONLY. Nov 22-Dec 10.

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