In January, Musical Cyberspace is going to work through a chain of musicals. This is how it works: each day I will discuss, in brief, a musical linked to the previous day’s musical by some kind of common ground. It follows then, that if you – dear reader – liked the previous day’s show, then you might enjoy the current day’s show. Comments, as alway, are welcome!
If you like Kiss Me, Kate, then you might like A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
Both A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Kiss Me, Kate are spins on the classics. While Cole Porter, Samuel Spewack and Bella Spewack has reworked Shakespeare for audiences of the 1940s, Stephen Sondheim, Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart retooled the ancient Roman farces of Plautus for audiences of the 1960s, without bowing to the popular trends of the time. So while there is no rock music, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum ends up being a musical comedy that transcends the ages and continues to delight audiences today, even as many musicals that were more culturally “on the money”, as it were, have slipped into the age of memory. (I mean, is anyone really interested in seeing a revival of Your Own Thing for any reason other than an academic interest in musical theatre? It’s not a piece that is going to work well for audiences today and it too is based on one on a classic, if not classical, play.)
At the heart of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is a slave who wants to be free: Pseudolus. To win his freedom, he resolves to unite his young master, Hero, with the object of his affection, Philia, who happens to be a courtesan at the house of ill repute next door. Of course, so many things stand in the way of Pseudolus: his status; Hero’s parents, Senex and Domina; his anxious co-worker, Hysterium; and a contract that Philia’s owner, Marcus Lycus, has to sell her to the famed soldier, Miles Gloriosus. The action is non-stop and only the brilliant score offers time for any respite as songs like “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid”, “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid”, “Lovely” and “Bring Me My Bride” offer commentary and insights on all of proceedings presented under the guise of “Comedy Tonight”.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is a classic farce: puns abound, as do slamming doors accompanying timely exits and entrances, mistaken identity and social satire. One of Stephen Sondheim’s most accessible shows, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum won the Tony Award for Best Musical, was filmed (lamentably, the film is less funny that it should be and jettisons a fair deal of the score), and has had revivals in 1972 and 1996. Pseudolus has become one of the great male roles in musical theatre, and every actor that has plated the part on Broadway to date has won a Tony Award for his efforts. It’s great fun all around and, in some ways, the perfect Sondheim musical for those who aren’t fans of his later work.
So, now it’s time to share your thoughts on A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. And what shows would you suggest to fans of this show? See which one we’ll feature here tomorrow…