It was completely unnecessary for slave and narrator Pseudolus to inform me that I would be seeing a "comedy tonight" for the Riverview High School's production of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." In fact, from the peals of laughter rising from the audience, I am confident the surrounding neighborhoods did not need the announcement, either.
"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" is exactly what it sounds like: a two-hour long comedy about a slave, Pseudolus, played by senior John Connolly, who seeks his freedom by trying to set up his master, the lovable Hero, with the proclaimed-lovely Philia. The farce shows the antics that happen when the object of one's master's affections is, to give it a modern point of reference, the object of many a Secret Service agent's attentions.
However, it isn't easy for Pseudolus to achieve his freedom. In a nutshell, Hero loves Philia but Philia is a lady of the night who has been sold, but she loves Hero, but the captain who bought her is on his way to Rome and Hero's father thinks that she is a scarlet lady who is waiting just for him, but she is actually just waiting for the captain, but the captain thinks that the blond-wigged Hysterium is Philia, so Hysterium pretends to be dead and Pseudolus just watches over everything and forgets that potions nearly always end in someone dying but then the gods swoop in and tie everything together quite neatly . . . .
A strong male cast propelled the production.
John Connolly's Pseudolus had the audience chuckling from the moment he burst on stage. His strong vocal performance and command of the audience made him a joy to watch.
Hysterium (John Doman) lived up to his name in true farce fashion. Doman's rendition of "Lovely" (reprise) with Connolly's Psuedolus had me in tears from laughing so hard.
And I was not alone. The production had audience members laughing from the seven hills of Rome to the four corners of the Tenth Street Elementary School auditorium. Comedic timing was especially strong in the numbers "Everybody Ought To Have a Maid" and "I'm Calm."
There was a considerable amount of talent housed in the House of Marcus Lycus (and I am not speaking of the "talent" the ladies display to the men of the forum). Dances that could have been very burlesque were choreographed tastefully by choreographers, Jamie Dapra Lydick and Julie Dapra Beck, and performed fluidly and gracefully by the dance troupe.
This production was supported heavily by an adroit student orchestra that played at the perfect volume to accompany their singers while showing off their own musicality.
I am so glad that the theater gods that Pseudolus calls upon during the opening number blessed me with such a delightful production, and I am sure that Apollo and the muses were pleased.
Meg Omecene was the winner of the Kelly Critic Award for 2011.
The Kelly Critics is a joint program of the Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh CLO's Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musicals, in which students at Kelly schools review musicals at other Kelly schools. Reviews are edited by senior theater critic Christopher Rawson (email@example.com), a long-time Kelly Awards judge.
First Published May 9, 2012 4:45 AM