Shalom Life | April 18, 2015

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Stratford Shakespeare Festival and Mirvish partner up for a Stephen Sondheim musical.

By: Miriam Cross

Published: January 2nd, 2011 in Culture » Stage » Reviews

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

A year ago this past December, Mirvish announced it would be partnering with the Stratford Shakespeare Festival to present its 2009 production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Directed by Tony and Olivier Award winner Des McAnuff, also the Festival’s artistic director, Funny Thing is rooted in the comedies of ancient Roman playwright Plautus, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (who visited Toronto in December for an onstage discussion at the Princess of Wales Theatre).

Funny Thing is not such an odd choice for the Stratford Festival, it turns out – according to the director’s notes, Shakespeare’s earliest comedies draw influence from Plautus’s comedies.

For a comedy, however, Funny Thing just isn’t that funny. It's certainly meant to be – the musical is rife with slapstick, pratfalls, tricks of the eye, and set-up music that tells you loud and clear a comical scene is coming. But overall, the show goes for easy laughs – there were too many scenes of overweight men prancing around in short skirts and falling off chairs, and not enough memorable jokes.

The Stratford cast is obviously talented, and the show starts and ends strongly with the catchy “Comedy Tonight,” where the narrator, Pseudolus, momentarily distances himself from the plot to preview the audience on what they can expect this night at the theatre. Pseudolus (played by Sean Cullen the night I attended Bruce Dow takes over for other performances) is also one of the central characters: he’s a slave to the young Hero, who is madly in love with Philia, the beautiful, virginal girl next door (“next door” being a whorehouse), even though she’s promised to Captain Gloriosus. Pseudolus makes Hero a deal: he’ll win him the lovely Philia in exchange for his freedom.

Of course, complications ensue: neither Philia or Hero are the brightest, and there’s an amusing case of mistaken identity when Hero’s father returns home early and accidentally leads Philia to believe that he is her rightful husband-to-be.

The music throughout is fantastic, especially the lively, drawn-out “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid” and an over-the-top, climactic funeral scene set to song. But many of the scenes don’t know when to quit, and the truly witty lines are few and far between. Maybe it just wasn’t to my taste, but A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum didn't elicit too many laughs still, the Stratford cast seemed to do as good a job as any with the material.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum runs until Jan. 16, 2010 at the Canon Theatre. For more information, visit www.mirvish.com.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s Trip to Israel Cost Them $1 Million Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s Trip to Israel Cost Them $1 Million TrendingHarrison Ford Breaks the Internet Thanks to 'Star Wars' and 'Blade Runner 2' [VIDEO] Harrison Ford Breaks the Internet Thanks to 'Star Wars' and 'Blade Runner 2' [VIDEO] TrendingUltra-Orthodox Paper Replaces Kim Kardashian With Receipt, Calls Her "Pornographic Symbol" Ultra-Orthodox Paper Replaces Kim Kardashian With Receipt, Calls Her "Pornographic Symbol" Trending
 

Netanyahu, Amy Schumer, Sarah Koenig and Others Make TIME's 100 Most Influential People

April 17, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
Netanyahu, Amy Schumer, Sarah Koenig and Others Make TIME's 100 Most Influential People

Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Diane von Furstenberg, Kevin Hart, Lorne Michaels, and many more make the 12th annual list

Read More

Israeli Defense Firm Creates System to Detect Terror Tunnels

April 17, 2015 | By JNS.org
Israeli Defense Firm Creates System to Detect Terror Tunnels

Elbit Systems developed the new tunnel-detection system together with the Israeli Defense Ministry and other partners in Israel

Read More

Rabbis, Mental Health Professionals Holding Conference to Support Young LGBT Jews

April 17, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
Rabbis, Mental Health Professionals Holding Conference to Support Young LGBT Jews

Conference to be held in Israel this Sunday will bring Orthodox rabbinical community, and the therapeutic community, together in support of LGBT teens

Read More

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s Trip to Israel Cost Them $1 Million

April 17, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s Trip to Israel Cost Them $1 Million

Mind you, they were only there for a couple days

Read More

Hamas to Gazans: Kidnap More Israelis

April 17, 2015 | By JNS.org
Hamas to Gazans: Kidnap More Israelis

"Our men, our women, our children [should] always think of kidnapping your soldiers and settlers, wherever they may be"

Read More

You Could Be The Next Goldstar Beer Taste Tester. Seriously.

April 17, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
You Could Be The Next Goldstar Beer Taste Tester. Seriously.

The company is need of a new chief beer tester, and is turning to the Israeli public for help

Read More

The Kosher Switch May Not Be So Kosher After All

April 17, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
The Kosher Switch May Not Be So Kosher After All

Marketed as a way to keep kosher during the Shabbat, many rabbinical sources fear the Kosher Switch may rely on a Jewish loophole to keep "kosher"

Read More

David Blatt Has NBA's Cavaliers Surging at Playoff Time

April 17, 2015 | By Bob Jacob/Cleveland Jewish News/JNS.org
David Blatt Has NBA's Cavaliers Surging at Playoff Time

"It's a great time to be in the city of Cleveland," says the Israeli Head Coach, whose team squares off against the Celtics on Sunday

Read More

More Headlines