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A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum
a Musical Comedy
CATEGORY :
by By Burt Shelove and Larry Gelbart, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

COMPANY : Big Top Productions
VENUE : Cobb Playhouse and Studio [WEBSITE]
ID# 916

SHOWING : April 16, 2004 - May 02, 2004

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Big Top Productions season finale. Musical comedy, misdirection and mayhem. A sidesplitting romp through ancient Rome, as the slave Pseudolus tries anything to win his freedom. Tragedy Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight!

This production is rated PG-13.


CAST & CREW LIST
Cast Robert Hadaway
Pseudolus Len Hedges-Goettl
Senex Marshall Hitch
Panacea Michaline Iliff
Erronius Scott Kimball
Tintinabula Nanci Kinney
Domina Kristine Lynch
Hysterium Neil Matchan
Philia Julia McDaris
Gymnasia Laura Nagle
Vibrata Lindsay Patteson
Protean Rory Schussler
Miles Gloriosus David Short
Protean Rico Sisney
Hero Ralph Stinehelfer
Marcus Lycus David Wilder
Protean Michael Wright
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

Musicals Need Singers
by JustMyOpinion
Tuesday, May 4, 2004
2.0
I submitted a review two weeks ago which never showed up here so here goes again, hopefully with better luck this time.

I agree with most of the reviews for this show. I found it of an amateur status because of its lack of musical direction. You really need a musical director when you do a musical and this show is proof postive.

Also it is not a good idea to settle for non-singers in critical roles, Hero and Hysterium are the main targets here. Although Philia, Miles and Pseudolus held it together, the show suffered much from the lack of vocal talent. Kudos to the accompanist who stayed with the singers no matter how far from the score they strayed.

Even poor singers can usually learn correct rhythms and memorize their words. Please Hero and Hysterium, do NOT tryout for another principal singing role until you seek some vocal training.

I totally enjoyed the sets, pace, outright drama and sense of chaos which is critical to Forum, but the music is so integral to the plot that I wished the non-singers could just recite the songs instead of having me to dread them each time. Direction: A+, Music Direction: F-.

It truly was a mixed bag, watching some actors who clearly got it and others who never established a clear character. Please, Domina should have some dimension other than screaming the first Act. What was Hysterium going for? Gay, Bi, Confused gender? God only knows... On the other hand, Philia, Pseudolus, Miles, Senex, Lycus and the Proteans (yea, Proteans) stayed in character throughout. I would have loved to see more of the Proteans, even if not scripted. (I do not know them and am not connected in any way to the Proteans ... just enjoyed their performance.)

Congratulations to Robert Hadaway for his vision and direction on this project. Get some help musically from someone who knows his/her stuff and you will have a dynamite combination.

I would have rated this show much higher had it not been a musical. In this case, it deserved the 2 I bestowed.

Aside to OD: Senex IS scripted to open Act 2. Shame on you for not checking that fact before questioning it in your original review. You are very critical of others who make such mistakes.
[POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
thanks by Okely Dokely
JMO,

I was wondering if anyone was going to confirm for me whether Senex narrates the Act 2 opening or not. I wasn't able to find out, since the script is not that easily accessible. But thanks for letting me know. You could have been a little nicer about it, but I appreciate you clearing that up for me. I stand corrected, and like I said in my review, I am backing away humbly with my tail between my legs and my foot in my mouth.
REPLY by JustMyOpinion
OD, NICE??? When have you ever been nice about something? You speak your mind and nice is not part of the equation. Others should have the right to speak here, especially when it is the truth. As I said before, you are very critical of others who perform around town and of reviewers who post here (from other reviews and comments you have written).
You often proclaim yourself an expert on producing, starring in and studying musicals having vast experience. I was hoping you would see for yourself that at times YOU should lighten up and not take yourself so seriously. Obviously the irony is lost on you and yours. There are other ways to check facts besides finding a script. A good reviewer should know that.
Many of your reviews hit the target exactly, but please be honest. You have biases and they show in your reviews. We all do.
I applaud you for not being afraid to mention that there is an elephant in the room when no one else will say it. Keep doing what you are doing, just do not get so worked up about it.
This is, of course ... JMO
//////////// P.S. All of the lines Senex speaks to begin Act 2 are directed to the audience regarding his experience in the play so far. Often Pseudolus begins Act 2 blocked frozen in the same position in which he found himself (about to be skewered) at the end of Act 1. It would be confusing and not nearly as funny for him to take his place in the tableau after speaking to the audience about the experiences of Senex. It makes more sense the way it is written ... think about it.
JMO by andy
JMO, Okley never said he was a professional reviewer. It sounds like you are getting more worked up than he is. I think all reviews are about opinions, and just because okley states his, I do not think it is fair of you to bash his opinions. I dont want to get involved having not seen this show. Just wanted to add my two cents.
Comment to JustMyOpinion in Ref to commetns made about Oakey by GaTallOne
I am somewhat confused. I don't think that Oakey has ever held himself out to be anything that he is not. He is an extremely inteligent young man who for most of his life has had love affair with theater. I have had the pleasure of knowing him since he was a rather obnoxious little boy. Yes Oakey you could be at that age, but then again I love children grilled medium rare. I have had the pleasure of watch his talent grow. I have also had the pleasure of reading his reviews. Yes we are all biased. Even the totally impartial of us have our own paridigms that guide our opinions.Oakey has a soft spot in his heart for Musicals others it is Thrillers others Comedy. But by in large of the shows that I have seen that Oakey has reviewed, his reviews have been honest from his perspective. I might not have agreed totally but can almost always see where he is coming from. In that respect we can agreed to disagree and that is what makes thes a wonderful forum.
Did You Expect Me To Stay Quiet? by Girl
I agree with Andy. JMO, I think you’re the one getting all worked up about this. Okely has never said that he knows it all. In fact, the mistake in his review that you pointed out he even said he may not remember correctly and that, if he was mistaken, he would “back away humbly with [his] tail between his legs and his foot in his mouth.” How can you say he acted like he knew it all? And you’re right, he’s not a professional reviewer (not that anyone ever said he was…). Because of that, because he’s a theatergoer offering his opinion, you shouldn’t expect him to fact-check everything he writes. When you read any review on this site you have to be aware that there are likely mistakes. That’s the way of this site. And as for the biases? Yeah, sure, he has them. Everyone does, and though he really does try to be fair and just in his reviews, sometimes his biases do come through. He most certainly isn’t the first one that has done this, and he won’t be the last. I hate to imply this, but it sounds to me that you are somewhat angered by Okely’s reputation on this site as a fair and honest reviewer. I don’t understand why, but you have the right to that opinion. You just don’t have to be so mean about it.
Bravo, OD Fans! by JustMyOpinion
Your supporters are still here, OD, in case anyone ever doubted it. Should we rename this site TheaterReviewsByOD.com? I don't know why I'm so mean for saying you are critical. You are, you know. But you and your fans cannot see it that way. I even said that we all are critical to some degree or there would be no good reviews here.
After reading several of the reviews written by OD I came to that conclusion on my own.
(To Girl: The expert part is implied from the number of times OD has seen, done, read, studied, etc. the works he reviews as he claims. If he has that much experience, he is an expert.)
OD, as one of your supporters put it, that is why this is such a wonderful forum for discussion, because we disagree.
Jeeeeeeeezzzzzz, this horse is dead. Say and think what you want to.
OD, I really did not mean to stir up this kind of reaction from stating that you are critical and should check your facts since you hold others to such a high standard. Consider my comment to be food for thought in writing future reviews. You have made suppositions in your reviews which were not true, but thought to be true by those who read them in the past by the way they were worded. Ask questions of people in the show, do not assume, that is all I am saying...
Truce...white flag extended.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To The Forum
by criticsqueen
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
2.0
Rob Hadaway did a wonderful job directing this Sondheim farce, which is NOT one of my personal favorites. Unfortunately he did not do as good a job casting the show. As has been pointed out, he apparently cares more about blocking, sets and costuming- all of which were phenomenal, than he does vocal performance. With the exception of "Comedy Tonight" there is not one tune that you can here people humming as they exit the theater, since the songs are largely forgetable. Again, this is a personal opinion of the show, not this production. However, without good vocal talent, the music becomes even more unbearable. By far, the best number was "Pretty Little Picture" with it's creative blocking and props.
The actress playing Philea was the true exception to the "no vocalists" rule in this production. It was very obvious she has had quite a bit of training and her beautiful, soprano voice rose above the entire cast. Pseudolus truly has a character voice, but it works in this character and he played his part well. Miles Glorioso also did a good job, but poor Hero could not seem to find a note in his first solo. He recovered and had a very nice voice in the rest of his numbers, albeit somewhat soft, but I never could quite forget that first number. The rest of the characters always seemed to fall flat.
Overall I would recommend this show to a theater goer who is interested in a night of true entertainment, but is definitley NOT looking to hear the vocal talent one tends to expect in a Sondheim production. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Comedy, comedy, comedy
by imadiva
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
4.0
I liked many things about this show. I thought the set was outstanding, costumes good, the "look" of the show was very good. The flow of the show was excellant, entrances and exits well timed and blocking was very good, especially for the layout of the room. The energy of the actors was very good as well as the comedic timing. The show was very well cast from an acting standpoint. The interplay between Pseudolus and Hysterium was very entertaining.

Vocals were up and down, Pseudolus, Senex, Domina, Philia and Miles Gloriosus were all good, although I think Philia and Miles Gloriosus were the best. Hero had some pitch problems on his first number, but was ok on the rest. He suffered in duets with Senex and Philia in that his voice was just not as stong as theirs, but he sounded fine. It is obvious that Hysterium is not a trained singer, he had some pitch problems, but more rhythm problems. However his songs were character songs and he did a great job of playing to his comedic strengths.

Overall I liked many more things about this show than I disliked. I would recommend it to anyone for just a fun lighthearted evening of entertainment. The audience when I saw it certainly seemed to be enjoying it.
[POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
No Excuse
by soaring
Sunday, April 25, 2004
2.0
There is no excuse for the choreographies and vocals in this production. It appears that the director, Rob Hadaway, cared far more about blocking than singing and dancing. The blocking was flawless. Entrances and exits were beautifully timed and choreographed - as is essential with the farcical humor of mistaken identities and slamming doors. Kudos for that.

The singing, with a couple notable exceptions, was often off-key, off-rhythm, and off-correct-words. Chorus numbers were passable, but several solos were almost unlistenable.

This is not a big dancing show. With that in mind, I was disappointed that the few dance numbers there are looked sloppy. The exception to this is "Pretty Little Picture" which was blocked rather than choreographed and, as mentioned above, this appears to be where the director excels.

Curtain call was much too long and far outlasted the applause the audience wished to bestow.

Costumes were good. The set was very impressive. The lighting was passable considering what they had to work with in this space.

I don't entirely understand people's love affiar with this show. I think the plot is trite, the characters are cliche, and the songs are forgettable. If the show itself were more interesting, then this production would have been a 3. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
What a fun show!
by Xenola
Sunday, April 25, 2004
4.0
This was my first real "Funny Forum" experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it. While there was certainly a large, um... range of vocal talent, all characters were well-acted and the show was very entertaining. I especially loved the unexpected personal touches. The production is absolutely hilarious, so some little imperfections are easy enough to overlook. I'd definitely see it again! [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
vocals tomorrow, comedy tonight
by Okely Dokely
Saturday, April 24, 2004
3.0
Here we have my favorite Sondheim musical by far, which isn’t saying much, since I don’t think that much of Stephen Sondheim. “Funny Forum” has all of his usual ingredients, but is very catchy, and is the oasis amidst a monotonous droning desert of “red red red red blue blue blue” and “to see, to sell, to get, to bring, to make, to lift, to go to the festival.” Like Meredith Willson, Cole Porter, or for that matter, John Lennon, he is generally more lyric-oriented.

This was my first venture into the promising young company that is Big Top Productions. I see definite potential here – while I had several major issues with voices, Rob Hadaway’s direction was wonderfully inventive, energetic, and for the most part, showed out-of-the-box thinking. It would be completely unfair to make any comparisons to The Shakespeare Tavern’s production, so I will not put these two up against each other, and I did my best to wipe my memory slate clean of all previous stagings I’ve seen of this show, and to view this one as a separate entity. I wholeheartedly believe that if this was my first time seeing “Forum,” I’d be awarding this production the same rating I’m giving it now.

I have spent the past month or so feeling bad for Len Hedges-Goettl. His Sky Masterson in “Guys and Dolls” was the most grossly miscast thing I’ve ever seen, and it seems he took a lot of flak for his performance. But it wasn’t completely his fault. He didn’t cast himself. Here he plays Pseudolous, which is a role much better suited for him. He was still extremely pitchy on his songs, and his vibrato is a little on the shrill side, but he did fine in the role, and connected to it much better than his last one. Neil Matchan as Hysterium gives it his all from the acting standpoint, but he is obviously not a singer, as was demonstrated in an almost unlistenable “I’m Calm,” and he seemed to get off the rhythm more than anyone else. The actor playing Hero could also have benefited from some type of vocal training. His voice was very breathy and he had a hard time staying on pitch. Senex was appealing, but forgot many lyrics, and I’m not sure that I liked him being Prologous at the beginning of Act 2. I don’t remember if that’s how it always is – if so, I will back away humbly with my tail between my legs and my foot in my mouth.

The lovely Kristine Lynch has such a great voice, but unfortunately screamed so much (think Mrs. Crabtree, the bus driver on South Park) that she had no voice at all for her solo, “That Dirty Old Man.” Another performer who seemed to borrow a voice from pop culture was David Wilder as Marcus Lycus. He strongly resembles French Stewart from 3rd Rock From the Sun, and sounded like Strong Bad from Homestar Runner. The Strong Bad thing was cute at first, but got old really quickly.

The director did his job, but it sounded like the MD was on holiday. Some more music rehearsals could have done this cast a lot of good, as there were many pitch and rhythm problems, both of which ruined “Everybody Ought To Have a Maid.” I thought a couple numbers were excellent – i.e. “The House of Marcus Lycus” and “Pretty Little Picture.” Most of the courtesan dances were titillating to watch (even though the Gemini twins were cut), and I loved Laura Nagle’s random high B flat that she hit. The House of ML set (as well as the whole set) was awesome, and I liked the sexually suggestive artwork on Lycus’s house. “Pretty Little Picture” was a lot of fun, with props that seemed to appear out of nowhere.

All involved with this show seemed to have a good time. This wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. It was a mixed bag. Don’t expect superb vocals, props actually there rather than mimed (there was no liquid in a glass – some of you know I have a problem with that), or certain Proteans to not lip-synch choreography counts on stage, but rather expect comedy tonight, because this cast pretty much delivers on that level.
[POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
It was cute
by Bobiskewl87
Saturday, April 24, 2004
4.0
This show was very cute, they had an incredible and imaginative set, and the costumes went well with the characters. I especially enjoyed the red hightops that one of the slaves wore! The singing was better in groups, but those few people just really stood out when they sang, and basically carried the show along. The acting was good too, but I would have liked to have seen more staying in character when they were onstage, and another person was talking. Other than that, the show was great! And I'd love to see it again. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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