Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Sunday, 28 October 2012
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To The Forum, Oct 27, 2012 ****½
Book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart Music &
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim Produced by John Frost
Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Sat, Oct 27, 2012
Versions of this review published in Herald Sun, Mon, Oct 29, 2012 (print and online)
GEOFFREY RUSH IS AN INSPIRED COMIC ACTOR and consummate clown who commands the stage as Pseudolus,
clown-slave, king of slapstick and innuendo, and narrator in Simon Phillips’riotous production of A
Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
Rush’s louche Pseudolus –
all skinny arms and legs, sloping strides and impeccable comic delivery – tosses
impertinent grimaces and glances at the audience as he conducts the comic
action like a musical maestro.
Giving him a run for his
comic money is Hugh Sheridan, a delicious surprise and triple threat
(singer-dancer-actor) as Hero, the wide-eyed, bumbling, romantic youth, and his
bright and warm vocal tone in his ballad, Love I Hear, is thrilling.
As the virginal
courtesan, Hero’s dim-witted, doll-like, love interest, Philia, Christie Whelan
is the perfect foil for Sheridan, and their duet, Lovely, is delightfully naïve
The book, written by
comedy heroes, Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart in 1964, is inspired by
Plautus’s Ancient Roman farces, draws mercilessly on the Italian clowns of
Commedia Del’Arte, and is riddled with bawdy slapstick, puns, mistaken
identity, disguises, social satire and chase scenes.
Pseudolus, the slave,
attempts to win his freedom by procuring for his young master, the pretty new
courtesan living in the bawdy house next door.
Above- Geoffrey Rush Adam Murphy with Proteans FORUM (c) Jeff Busby
Despite not being
nominated for a Tony in 1964, Stephen Sondheim’s music, played by a tight
orchestra led by Mathew Frank, is perky and singable, while his lyrics are
witty, cheeky and pithy, skilfully colouring characters and expanding narrative.
introduction, followed by the rousing, company rendition of A Comedy Tonight,
is the highlight, and Phillips maintains a galloping pace until the final 10
minutes before interval, when the rhythm falters.
The pace picks up again
in the second half but loses momentum around the classic chase scene, where
entrances and exits are not yet perfectly timed and gags get lost for a while.
Mitchell Butel’s bossy,
head slave, Hysterium is hilariously twitchy and neurotic, culminating in his
hysterical solo, I’m Calm, and his duet with Rush, I’m Lovely, while disguised
as Philia, is a comic feast.
With his rich baritone
and fine comic timing, Adam Murphy balances gravitas with foolishness as Miles
Gloriosus, the muscular, military commander who buys Philia, and the
vaudevillian trio (Rohan Browne, Brent Hill, Troy Sussman) provides a
procession of comic soldiers and eunuchs.
The production boasts a
parade of comic actors: Magda Szubanski as the pompous Domina, Shane Bourne as
her randy, ageing husband, Bob Hornery as demented geriatric, Erronius and
Gerry Connolly as Lycus, procurer of women.
Gabriela Tylesova’sAncient Forum design is distorted,
comic book quirky, and her costumes are a vivid exaggeration of Roman garb
merged with extravagant, sexy burlesque costumes.
So park your brain in
neutral then sit back and enjoy the visual and comic feast of this popular,
By Kate Herbert
R- Christie Whelan and Hugh Sheridan in FORUM (c) Jeff Busby
Director, Simon Phillips; Set & Costume Design,
Gabriela Tylesova; Choreography, Andrew Hallsworth; Music Director, Mathew
Frank; Musical Supervision, Guy Simpson; Lighitng, Nick Schlieper; Associate Director, Dean Bryant.
Geoffrey Rush, Hugh Sheridan, Christie Whelan-Browne,
Mitchell Butel, Adam Murphy, Shane Bourne, Magda Szubanski, Gerry Connolly, Bob
Hornery, Rohan Browne, Brent Hill, Troy Sussman