Old Latin meets classic vaudeville
"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" is a madcap musical inspired by the comedies of Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus — who lived between 254 and 184 BC — and the infectious energy of classic vaudeville. This fast-paced and irreverent Tony Award-winner took prizes for best musical and best book in 1962 — to the credit of composer and lyricist Steven Sondheim and writers Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart.
It tells the bawdy story of a slave, Pseudolus, and his attempt to earn his freedom by helping his young master woo the girl next door. Look for hilarious one-liners, songs, choreography, puns, slamming doors, cases of mistaken identity and satirical commentary about social classes.
An opening night toga party for "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" will be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 25, at the community theater, 10 Third St., Medford. Togas are optional, but encouraged. Pre-show refreshments and activities will be offered, and curtain will be at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $20 and can be purchased online at www.randalltheatre.com or by calling 541-632-3258.
Other shows are set for 7 p.m. Saturday, April 26, and Thursdays through Saturdays, May 1-3 and May 8-10. Matinees are at 1 p.m. Sundays, April 27, May 4 and May 11.
Tickets cost $15 for all reserved seats; pay-what-you-want tickets for any remaining seats will be available 30 minutes before shows.
"Some plays are meant to make you think, disturb or thrill you," says the show's director, Toni Holley. " 'A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum' has only one purpose, and that is to make audiences laugh. It's actually written into the lyrics of the opening number; 'weighty affairs will just have to wait .... tragedy tomorrow ... comedy tonight.' "
Holley also directed Randall's production of "The Man of La Mancha" in 2013.
"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" has been revived several times on Broadway and the West End in New York City, and the musical was made into a successful film in 1966.
And who could forget Southern Oregon University's 2006 production of "Forum" with choreography by Jim Giancarlo of the Oregon Cabaret Theatre and direction by Pat Patton of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival?
"Forum" was written when big musicals were popular on Broadway. Another line in the opening number is "nothing with kings, nothing with crowns" — a direct reference to "Camelot."
"So we've stayed completely true to the play and kept it laugh-out-loud, forget-all-your-troubles and wipe-the-tears-from-your-eyes funny," Holley says.
Randall Theatre's production stars Jon Oles as Pseudolus, the slave. The cast includes David Eisenberg, Brad Zentgraf, Michael J. Serface, Victoria Skinner, Cathy Beemer, Adam Carlisle, Jesse Lawson, Grant Shepard, Meagan Kirby, Courtney Crawford, Andrea Budavari, Sarah Stauff, Ella Rose Schaefer, Chloe Motta and David Hagemaier.
"Everyone's role is equal, and each actor gives so much to the show," Holley says. "We found ourselves laughing at lines and bits of action right from the beginning. As the rehearsals progressed, everyone has contributed to the comedy. When the actors are connected to their characters, the bits come naturally."
Debbie Downward created dance and movement for the actors — who aren't necessarily dancers — and brought together light, festive and entertaining numbers that are sure to please, Holley says.
Music director is Brian Alec Thom, and scene and costume designs are by Russell Medeiros, who is new to the Rogue Valley and worked as a stage hand for Randall's "The Odd Couple."