Central Lakes College (CLC) Theatre will present “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” a musical comedy, opening on Feb. 14, with performances through Feb. 24 in the Chalberg Theatre on the Brainerd campus.
Director Patrick Spradlin leads a group of 20 singer/dancer/actors in this madcap romp written by Bert Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, with music by Stephen Sondheim. “Forum” is the story of Roman slave Pseudolus, who is willing to buy, steal or cheat his way to freedom. When his young master Hero falls for a beautiful girl living next door, Pseudolus strikes a bargain: Hero will get the girl and he will get his freedom.
Complications arise when it is discovered that Philia, the girl next door, is really a virgin courtesan belonging to procurer Marcus Lycus and already promised to Roman general Miles Gloriosus. Pseudolus’ hopes aren’t completely dashed, however, as he concocts a scheme to convince Lycus that the girl has contracted the plague and must be quarantined from Lycus’ other women. The plan nearly succeeds until Hero’s father and mother unexpectedly return from a trip to the country and Miles Gloriosus arrives to claim his bride. With the help of fellow slave Hysterium, Pseudolus wildly improvises a plan that may just win him his freedom.
“Forum” debuted on Broadway during the 1962 season with Zero Mostel in the role of Pseudolus, Phil Silvers as Marcus Lycus and Jack Gilford as Hysterium. Silvers was originally wanted for the role of Pseudolus but turned it down because he wouldn’t be able to wear his glasses and was so notoriously nearsighted he feared falling into the orchestra pit. Ironically, Silvers played the role of the crafty slave in a 1972 revival, with his glasses.
The original production won Tony awards as Best Musical, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Book and Best Director. A film version of the play was produced in 1966 and there have been several well-known revivals: In 1996 Nathan Lane took on the role of Pseudolus (later taken during the Broadway run by Whoopi Goldberg) and in 2011 an Australian revival featured Geoffrey Rush in the lead role. Interestingly, every actor who agreed to play the role of Pseudolus on Broadway (Zero Mostel, Phil Silvers, and Nathan Lane) won a Best Actor Tony for their work in the musical.
Audience members will be familiar with many of the show’s tunes, including “Comedy Tonight,” “Impossible” and “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid.” According to director Spradlin, the show is “a vaudeville-style comic spree.” The title of the show comes from the standard opening line of many a vaudeville joke: “A funny thing happened on the way to the theatre tonight ...”
The cast of “Forum” consists of cast members from Brainerd, Baxter, Pine River, Pequot Lakes, Crosby and Little Falls. Included are Michael Sanders as Pseudolus, Charlie Johnson as Senex, Bill Musel as Marcus Lycus, Gary Hirsch as Hysterium, Barb McColgan as Domina and Mitchell Dallman as Hero. Other principal roles are played by Cheyenne Syvertson as Philia, Ed Eyestone as Erronius and Kevin Yeager as Miles Gloriosus. The bevy of courtesans is portrayed by Ann Jordan, Nicole Rothleutner, Sarah Mozey, Sarah Rudlang, Sarah Cooper and Terri Mackendanz. A trio of clowns known as the Proteans is played by Darren Dosh, Tom Vasecka and Joe Wooden.
The vocal director for the production is Lauren Nickisch. Wendy DeGeest is the choreographer and Steve Anderson is the orchestra conductor. Rehearsal pianist is Sarah Gorham. Sarah Broton is the stage manager for the production, with Hannah Maloney serving as assistant stage manager.
“Forum’s” costumes are designed by Dawn Marks and Tim Leagjeld designed the whimsical scenery. Dwana Paplow is the technical director.
Performances for “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 14-16 and 21-23, with 2 p.m. matinees on Sundays, Feb. 17 and 24. Tickets can be purchased from the CLC Theatre Box Office at 855-8199 or online at clctickets.com.