Highly Recommended ***** For years and years, I have made it a special point to attend the opening night of every Porchlight Music Theatre Company. They are very special, indeed. With all the openings in town, plus having many grandkids who have shows to see as well, I missed the opening of their current production, Stephen Sondheim’s “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” with a book by Larry Gelbert and Burt Shevlove. Tonight, I saw what I had missed earlier and realized just how powerful the old adage,’better late than never” is! This finely tuned cast under the clever direction of Michael Weber, truly knows and understands what these creators were thinking when this show was written.
The show was inspired by the works of the Roman playwright Plautus, the tale begins with a huge opening number that tells us that the “company” we are about to witness can bring us several types of plays, and tonight it is a comedy. And is it! Bill Larkin ( who truly has a heck of a time with this role) who is our narrator, the house slave Pseudolus wants only to gain his freedom. His master’s son, a young Hero (that is his name (Miles Blim, who appears a bit young for the role, does grow on us as the show progresses) has become smitten with a maiden living in the home next door. That house is owned by Lycus (Lorenzo Rush Jr) a dealer of “courtesans” and of course filled with these bawdy ladies. This one however is a “virgin” named Philia (the adorable Sarah Lynn Robinson).
There is also a third house on the block, owned by an elderly widower, Erronius (played with the perfect comic touch by Anthony Whitaker), who had a son and a daughter kidnapped as youngsters by pirates. He searches for them throughout the play. This being a “comedy tonight”, through mistaken identities (typical Shakespeare comical ploys), he will find them before the show comes to its happy ending.
This is a solid cast with Will Clinger, up to his ld comic stuff, Caron Buinis, Adriana Cappuccitti, Erica Evans, Britt-Marie Siversten, Neala Barron as the women in the lives of these men,the trio of Jason Grimm, Andrew Lund and Jaymes Osborne taking on a myriad of supporting roles, and the hysterical and scene stealing Matt Crowle as Hysterium. Greg Zawada takes on the role of the warrior Miles Gloriosis, who is to wed the virgin that ends up not being who they thought her to be. You will see!
This is pure comedy with every member of the audience leaving the theater with a better outlook than when they entered it. The songs are not the most memorable, with the exception of the opening, “Lovely” and the cutesy “Everybody Ought to have a Maid” and possibly “Impossible”, but all the songs fit the story and help to tell the story to us. Weber and crew were able to bring back the previously deleted “Echo Song” which helps to complete the story.
The set (Megan Truscott) creates the cartoon illusion that Weber wants us to see and the costumes (Alexia Rutherford) are as good as they can get. Becca Jeffords (lighting) and Robert Hornbostel (sound) along with the props (Mealah Heidenreich) complete the onstage picture to perfection. The choreography by Brenda Didier shows how a brilliant choreographer can utilize a small stage, making it appear so much larger. The music, conducted by Linda Madonia and her five musicians is solid and never becomes overpowerful as often can happen in a smaller venue.
I am sorry that I am reporting this to you so late, but you still have until May 24th to see this special production of “Forum”. If you have never seen it- YOU MUST! If you have seen it, see it again! The production will continue thru the 24th at Stage 773, 1225 West Belmont Ave, with performances as follows:
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 4 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 p.m.
Thursday , May 21st at 1 p.m. special, but no evening show that date.
Tickets are either $39 or $45 Open seating and can be purchased at the theater box office, by phone at 312-327-5252 or online at www.stage773.com. To learn more about Porchlight, visit www.PorchlightMusicTheatre.org
Valet parking is available and there is some street parking in the neighborhood, some metered , some not.If you dine at Cooper’s, they have a lot in the back, where you can park and then go back for a late desert.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”