THEATRE REVIEW Even if They Never Made it to the Forum
MTG’s Latest a Fantastic Adaptation of a Sondheim Classic
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
MIT Musical Theatre Guild
Apr. 27-29, May 3-5, 2007
Kresge Little Theatre
This past weekend, the MIT Musical Theatre Guild opened their spring musical, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, with a bang. The musical, which was written by Stephen Sondheim, is a classic comedy about an ancient Roman slave, Pseudolus (Timothy I. Abrahamsen ’06) as he attempts to win his freedom by getting a girl, Philia (Kathleen McEnnis ’07) for his young master, Hero (Jonathan Arie Gray ’10). Since this is a comedy, Pseudolus’ plans are continually (and humorously) foiled by all of the other characters — including a pimp, courtesans, three Greek chorus members, a nagging wife, an unhappy husband, a powerful Captain, a blind neighbor, and an uptight slave — and confusion ensues. While the plot is interesting enough, it is a bit predictable and overshadowed by the humor of the dialogue. In fact, despite the title, I’m pretty sure no one even went to a forum; and if a character did, it was of no consequence to the work as a whole.
Playing the role of Pseudolus, Abrahamsen is in nearly every scene. With an ease on stage that must have been cultivated from years of performance as well as simple, natural talent, he made me feel like the entire show was just for me. Abrahamsen’s subtle gestures and side remarks were so witty and well-timed, that I thought some of them might have been ad-libbed. He further improved his performance with powerful singing and some pretty impressive dance moves (which he usually executed while singing). I know I probably sound as though I am exaggerating his skills, but I’m not. Sure, other characters made have had funnier one-liners or better solos, but it was Abrahamsen who carried the show with skill and ease.
While Abrahamsen was the backbone, other characters built upon his sturdy foundation. In particular, McEnnis combined ditziness with vocals that were almost operatic to create a character who was in fact “Lovely” in addition to funny. Elizabeth V. Stephanopoulos ’07, who played the overbearing wife, Domina, was absolutely terrifying in her believability, even if her singing was a bit off-key. In addition, Misha Leybovich G absolutely became the powerful and successful Captain Miles Gloriousness. Everything about him exuded strength and confidence, including his soulful and resonating voice. Steven L. Flowers ’06 may have had the smallest part as Erronius, the blind neighbor, but he made the most of it as he always provided a laugh during the tensest situations, thus preventing the comedy from ever becoming too serious. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention the amazing portrayal of Hysterium, the overly anxious slave, by Daniel A. Perez ’10. He owned the stage with his over-the-top anxiety that often required Perez to look … well, for lack of a better word, foolish. He elicited many laughs from the audience and brought likability to his neurotic character. Moreover, he brought pure energy to the stage, particularly when singing his solo piece, appropriately called, “I’m Calm.”
Instead of being stuck in a pit, the small orchestra playing throughout was visible on the second level of the stage. This placement was a nice contrast and let the audience see the often forgotten members of any musical. Although the orchestra started off a little shaky with some timing issues, they quickly got into the groove and performed the many musical numbers in the show nicely.
Overall, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum may not have anything to do with a forum, but it certainly is funny. MTG does a great job with this classic musical, and lucky for you there will be another set of performances this weekend, so I would recommend seeing it if you get a chance.