Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Something for Everyone

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Something for Everyone

Article excerpt

Goodspeed's Forum honors its origins

Ted Pappas, the director of the Goodspeed Opera House's revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Sept. 25-Nov. 29, 2009), considers the show to be a masterpiece. "You don't re-shape, re-think or re-build a masterpiece," he told me while in rehearsal for the production. "You reveal it." And reveal he did. Pappas' strategy at the East Haddam, Conn., theatre was to explore and mine every nuance of Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart's book. He found syllables to stress along with doors to slam. Actors enunciated frantically while still seeming natural.

Pappas, a veteran Goodspeed director and artistic director of the Pittsburgh Public Theater, amplified all the burlesque in Forum. His "Comedy Tonight" included some low-comic sight gags using fake severed legs and rubber chickens, and a few more such lagniappes were sprinkled throughout the show. Other than that, this Forum didn't reach for any kind of reinterpretation, opting to let the actors, gags, pratfalls, script and the songs - especially the songs - do the heavy lifting.

"The most important stamp any director can put on a new production of Forum is to cast it perfectly and make certain that all the actors are performing in the same universe of reality," Pappas explained. "I found a new Pseudolus, Adam Heller. He has never played the role before, and now he joins the ranks of all the great actors who have played Pseudolus before him."

Heller (who played Charley Kringas in the 1994 York Theatre Company production of Merrily We Roll Along) was an energetic and charming Pseudolus, although no Zero Mostel or Nathan Lane. (Then again, not many are.) Ron Wisniski channeled Sid Caesar as Marcus Lycus, while David Wohl as Senex had the crackly voice just right. Mark Baker (who played the title role in Harold Prince's 1974 Candide revival) was underutilized as the doddering Erronius. If there is a complaint with this production, it was an overdose of camp. John Scherer was an over-the-top Hysterium, as were the Proteans (Jason Babinsky, Kurt Domoney and Steve Konopelski). …

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