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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

a Musical Comedy
CATEGORY : COMEDY MUSICAL
by Stephen Sondheim, Burt Shevelove, Larry Gelbart

COMPANY : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
ID# 630

SHOWING : January 03, 2003 - February 09, 2003

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

During the heart of winter, The Shakespeare Tavern will be cooking up a whole lot of "Comedy Tonight" bringing the music and comic genius of Stephen Sondheim to 499 Peachtree Street as The Shakespeare Tavern stages its first Broadway musical. Delight in the antics of the servant Pseudolus as he attempts to earn his freedom by winning the hand of a lovely courtesan for his lovesick master. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum will keep your face smiling and your toes tapping.

This production is rated PG-13 for sexual overtones


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Heidi Cline
Musical Director Peter Hauenstein
Choreographer Jeff McKerley
Costume Designer Anne Carole Butler
Set Designer Tommy Cox
ASM Deborah McGriff
Lighting Designer Phillip Morris
Stage Manager Alexis Weiss
Percussionist/Eunuch Michael Guss
Bass/Protean Charles Holmes
Pianist Karen Huckabee
Strings/Protean Matthew Trautwein
Guitar/Protean Kelly Yearout
Gemini Samantha Bentley
Gymnasia Sandra Benton
Senex Tony Brown
Phillia Viveka Chandrasekavan
Panacea Becky Cormier
Tintinabula Natalie Gray
Protean Luis Hernandez
Vibrata Kristen Keating
Gemini Meg McGarry
Hysterium Jeff McKerley
Hero Brandon Odell
Domina Valerie Payton
Erronius Drew Reeves
Pseudolus Clark Taylor
Marcus Lycus Jeff Watkins
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Interesting choices
by Okely Dokely
Saturday, March 22, 2003
5.0
Even though I had a few minor issues with the production, it is still the best show I've seen in town (excluding anything at the Fox) in quite a while, and the best show I've seen all year, not counting The Lion King, but that's not a fair comparison to make. First, my gripes:

I thought Clark Taylor as Pseudolous was trying too hard to be Nathan Lane, and didn't really make the role his own - which frustrated me - but he was still good. I still believe, though, that the best Pseudolous I've seen on the live stage was Marty Ross's performance when Village Center Playhouse did it in '95. Seeing Clark Taylor made me miss Marty.

While I really loved the directing style of this show - the constant high energy - the bit where everybody's running around at once was a too long, tedious, and not that funny. But then again, all the shows I've seen with long periods of running around (like in a farce), I haven't found funny.

I was impressed with Brandon Odell as Hero - I had never seen the role played like that before. The director made some interesting choices in how to present this character. He's usually one of the few "straight" people in the show, but all his comic potential was played up in this version. And as for Jeff McKerley, one of my favorite local actors: I could write pages about him and how much I admire the guy, but I'll just say that he never ceases to amaze me. I considered going back and seeing the show again just to see him. But even the wonderful Jeff's performance wasn't perfect; like one of the other reviewers mentioned, I also thought that all the crotch-flashing and the sticking out of the tongue became severe overkill.

This show resonates in my mind to this day, and after seeing it, I do not want to be in a production of this show anytime soon, as it is an almost impossible act to follow. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Hilarious
by Mama Alma
Wednesday, February 19, 2003
5.0
Hysterical. Hysterium. Jeff McKerley. In the Forum. At the Tavern. And you missed it. Shame. On. You. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Energy Overload
by Dedalus
Monday, January 27, 2003
4.0
I have seen more than five productions of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and even designed lights for one production. But I have to say that the Atlanta Shakespeare Company’s mounting is probably the best of the lot. Several things contribute to this – the creative staging by director Heidi Cline, the winning performances by most of the cast, and an energy output high enough to power Atlanta for years.

For this review, I think I’ll focus on the performances. The trap with “…Forum” is that it asks for a vaudeville, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink style of humor (and this production even includes the … never mind). The problem with Schtick, though, is, that it falls flat if it’s not character-driven. I’m happy to report that all the laughs at the Tavern are earned, and all the more memorable because of it.

Special attention needs to be given to three actors. The lovers, Hero and Philia, have always been (in my experience at least), the “straight man” characters. They were the dull couple around whom all the craziness revolved. Brandon O’Dell and Viveka Chandrasekaran, however, make these two of the funniest characters in the show. Mr. O’Dell is a walking sight gag with his scrawny pale legs reaching the mile or two it takes to reach his mini-toga hem. He is so klutzy and so earnest that every time he talks, we want to smile. Ms. Chandrasekaran matches him dim-bulb for dim-bulb with her thousand-dollar smile and million-dollar voice.

As Chief Slave Hysterium, Jeff McKerley tries to steal every scene he’s in (although I did find his tongue-flicking and crotch-flashing a little, well, never mind ….). Fortunately, he’s well-matched by the other cast members, and only gets away with his theft when no one else is looking.

My one small quibble is with Clark Taylor in the central role of Pseudolus. Don’t get me wrong – he is fine in the role. The problem is he doesn’t command the proceedings as Pseudolus should. It’s as if the rest of the cast is shining with 1000 watts, and he’s only set at 750. Fortunately, 750 watts is enough (and is more than I saw in my last Pseudolus).

Tony Brown, Valerie Payton, Drew Reeves, Daniel J. Cook, and Jeff Watkins all provided excellent support, and the ever-changing Proteans and ever-glorious Courtesans filled out the cast with joy and élan.

This is a show where all the elements -- cast, script, set, dance, design, and kitchen sink -- all hit their marks and leave the audience laughing. It’s definitely a Comedy Tonight!

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)
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A Funny Thing is Some Thing!
by Tongo
Saturday, January 25, 2003
5.0
We wondered, we whispered, we mulled it over: a musical at the Shakespeare Tavern? And why this particular musical? How on earth could the Tavern pull it off?

One word: superbly.

I've been attending ASC productions for decades, now, and I have rarely seen anything better. It was such a pleasure to see Clark Taylor back; as Pseudolus, he has a wonderful blend of wry, quietly raucous humor and shrewd observation. As for Brandon Odell as Hero, and Viveka Chandrasekavan as Phillia, the criss-crossed lovers: what perfect shallowness! (that's a compliment!) Both have lovely voices, a bit light, so that sometimes there was difficulty punching through the music, but all in all, good job. I am familiar with Daniel J. Cook, Miles Gloriosus, in the roles he has played (including Henry VIII) at the Georgia Renaissance Festival, and knew he was a good singer, but I had no idea how powerfully good a singer he was until this show. All of the crew, cast and musicians did a wonderful job ( Jeff Watkins! The sax! David Rood on trumpet! Time for a Shakespeare Jazz Quartet!) and the night was a blast.

But, I have to say, the wonder of the night was Jeff McKerley. It is very difficult to be a physical comedian and not take away attention from your fellow actors. This is a difficulty that the Tavern has had again and again, especially in recent years. But McKerley's physicality, while always up and ready, flows and weaves in and out of the scene, and around his castmates, not over them. He not only talks the funny talk, he listens with a quiet ear. He's present, he's with his fellows, he's with his audience, it's a joy. The tongue astounds, of course! I have never seen a tongue do what he can do with it! But even when he really lays on the schtik, it never seems like a cheap trick.

As for the choice of Forum for a Shakespeare company: how many Shakespearean plots does this script borrow from anyway? Good to see the borrowed ideas returned in such a fun, fun, way...

Tongo [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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