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
Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Sat, Oct 27, 2012
Stars: ****½
Versions of this review published in Herald Sun, Mon, Oct 29, 2012 (print and online)

 -->“Something appealing, something appalling… Something that’s bawdy, something that’s gaudy, something for everybawdy!”
 Cast of Forum (c) Jeff Busby

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 and ditzy.

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.

Rush’s opening 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’s Ancient 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, musical farce.

By Kate Herbert
R- Christie Whelan and Hugh Sheridan in FORUM (c) Jeff Busby

Creative Team:
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

No comments:

Post a Comment