A Roman slave hatches a complicated plot to help his young master win the girl-next-door, as well as win freedom for himself. The plan quickly spirals into farce in the classic musical “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to The Forum.”
The show opens Nov. 1 and runs through Nov. 18 at Community Players in Bloomington.
The play won accolades and awards in 1962, plus helped to launch the career of Steven Sondheim. And the show has aged well, according to director Cristen Monson.
“The classic comedy of it has not changed,” said Monson. “The sight gags, the pratfalls, all the things that make us laugh in any kind of modern comedy show. It’s kind of like a 'Laugh In' episode, with the naughtiness and the bawdiness. So I wanted to play that up with a burlesque and vaudeville feel. I even asked our costume designer to add vaudevillian pieces to our costumes.”
Courtesans are some of the classic stock characters that populate “A Funny Thing...” and Monson was careful to make sure her performers were totally at ease with their roles.
“The courtesans are supposed to be scantily clad, and my costume designer asked our ladies what they were comfortable wearing instead of throwing them into something they might be uncomfortable with. Also, we made sure that the women who auditioned know that they don’t have to have a Miss America body. We have girls who are the curvier girls, like me. It’s about confidence and pure comedy and joy in what they do on stage.”
And what the actors are doing on stage is classic farce—with fast chases, slamming doors and quick turnarounds. It’s demanding, said actor Nick Benson, who is playing Hysterium, but it’s also lots of fun.
“It’s one of those scripts that gives you room to play. And if something goes on with the audience, we can play with that for the rest of the show.”
“I told the actors from the very beginning that you have to make sure you are in shape for this,” said Monson. “The last 25 minutes of the show has no music. It’s all the chase and people missing each other and falling down kicking each other, so it’s completely chaos. But in order to make it look like chaos, it takes a lot of planning and a lot of choreography of who is coming in what door and who is exiting what exit.”
“It can be maddening,” Benson laughed, explaining speedily: “You’re sitting and waiting and you know you have to go on at this particular moment when this person leaves and then I have three seconds to get on and do my part and I’m on stage for five seconds before I have to exit.”
Smiling, he drew in a deep breath.
“It just goes and goes and goes. But once you get into the rhythm of it, that’s what you look forward to because you know the audience is just going to lose it just from you getting your timing right.”
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