By Mary Damiano
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, the wonderful 1960’s musical sex farce set in ancient Rome, gets a less than stunning retread at the Broward Stage Door Theatre in Coral Springs.
With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Burt Shevelove and legendary comedy writer Larry Gelbart, Forum is the story of a slave who makes a bargain with his young master: If the slave can unite his young master with the woman he loves, the slave will win his freedom. To that end, he schemes, cons and overcomes every complication to make his dream come true. Along the way, there are mistaken identities, slamming doors, cross-dressing and other staples of classic farce.
It should be noted that the Saturday matinee audience at Stage Door applauded, laughed and seemed to enjoy this production, and it does have some truly enjoyable moments, but most of the show is just okay.
Dan Kelley, who also directs, plays Pseudolus, the slave who craves freedom. Comic greats, including Zero Mostel and Phil Silvers, have played this role. Kelley doesn’t follow in their footsteps. He crawls behind, playing Pseudolus too broadly, mugging his way through scenes, goading the audience into laughing. Kelley the actor would have benefited from a more objective director.
There are other distractions. The courtesans are saddled with awful wigs that keep them from reaching true bodacious babe status. Hero (Andrew Betz) and Philia (Lauren Cupples) are bland as the young lovers. Performers must sing to recorded tracks, which causes problems in matching pitch and tempo.
There are, thankfully, bright spots in this production. Shane R. Tanner is the picture of braggadocio as warrior Miles Gloriosus. Mark A. Harmon is appropriately smarmy as Marcus Lycus, a seller of courtesans. Ken Clement is delightful as Senex, a downtrodden, sex-starved husband. The Proteans (Jereme Philip Marlow, Frank Vomero and Curtis Roth) do well with Chrissi Ardito’s acrobatic choreography.
When it’s done right, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum shines. Unfortunately, Stage Door’s production never achieves the sparkle needed to get it from lackluster to dazzling.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum runs through Oct. 9 at the Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Rd., Coral Springs; and then runs Oct. 14-Nov. 13 at the Byron Carlyle Theatre, 500 71st St., Miami Beach. For tickets and more information call 954-344-7765 or visit www.StageDoorTheatre.com