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Durham Musical | A Funny Thing Happened ...
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“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” is a farcical comedy adapted from the Roman comedies of Plautus and was the first mainstream hit for its composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim.

The opening number promises “Comedy Tonight” as well as a happy ending, and it was certainly delivered. The plot is based around Pseudolus (Anthony Smith), a slave, and his mission to buy his freedom from his owner Hero (Ed Turner) by arranging for him to be with his true love Philia (Rebecca Turner) a virgin from the house of courtesans next door. This show requires a cast with vocal, acting and comedy performance skills, and this cast certainly did not disappoint.

There were strong supporting performances from the female citizens and courtesans and Mark Armstrong, Richard Hall, Geoff Knott, Nicky Tones, Graeme Walton and Jack Watson must have been exhausted at the end of the run after the amount of energy and diversity required for their roles as Proteans. An excellent job men!   

The roles of “Hero’s” parents Senex (a dirty old man) and Domina (his battle-axe wife) were well played by Paul Maddison and Delia McNally, their characterisations being very good, and Delia’s vocal skills were put to good use in her two numbers with her commanding the stage. Rebecca Turner, as Philia, played the stereotypical dumb blonde to perfection, and Steve Hill, as her temporary owner Lycus (a buyer and seller of courtesans), seemed to embrace his inner sleaziness.

The role of the self-loving Roman Gladiator Miles Gloriosus was portrayed with the necessary energy and strength by Guy Laws, and Rob Gair as befuddled old man Erronius had the audience laughing out loud with his short-sighted antics.

Steven Berry gave an excellent portrayal of Hysterium, the slave to Senex and Domina,  and his antics were scene-stealing, especially the “Lovely” reprise where he was dressed as Philia!

Of course all of this mayhem and orchestration of madness has to be led by someone with skill and comedic timing, and Anthony Smith as Pseudolus did this with style, holding the audience in the palm of his hand from the opening number throughout. The energy and stamina for this role cannot be underestimated, and Anthony was completely as ease with it.

Put these excellent performances together with a good set, good technical support and perfect accompaniment, and you have the recipe for a very enjoyable production. Congratulations to the entire production team.

Review by, Michelle Coulson
NODA

 

SET in ancient Rome, the musical tells the story of three adjacent houses though the narration of slave Pseudolus as he attempts to gain his freedom by arranging the union of his master’s son Hero (Ed Turner) to the virgin Philia (Rebecca Turner) living next door in the house of Lycus (a procurer and seller of beautiful girls, played by
Steve Hill)
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The whole evening was confused by mistaken identities, farce-like behaviour and ribald comment on the whole social class of the time – but all good family entertainment. From start to finish, the show had the wow factor with a chorus of courtesans from the house of Lycus, and Proteans who, as the name would suggest, played many roles from sailors and soldiers to eunuchs.

Choreography - in the safe hands of Kathleen Knox - was in keeping with the era. Music was under the watchful, and expert, baton of MD Steven Hood who mastered the complex score. The whole production was overseen by one of the finest directors in the area, Fred Wharton, whose finishing touches brought the creation to life.

The fixed set itself provided many white rabbit moments as you read the graffiti on the walls – each an in-joke about the plot, production or composer. . .

It is hard to single out any particular performer in such a blockbuster of a production but it would be churlish not to give special mention to the fine talents of Steven Berry as Hysterium, whose manic exploits and actions would have graced a Brian Rix farce, also to Anthony Smith as Pseudolus – opening and closing the production (and barely off stage in between) – he stole the hearts of the audience throughout with his great charisma. As in all good farces there was a happy ending for all – certainly for the audiences that went out uplifted at such a fine piece of theatre.

Review by, Gordon Richardson
Durham Times


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