By Sheila Martindale
Monday Magazine theatre reviewer
Normally I am not a huge fan of slapstick, but I absolutely LOVED Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at the Roxy Theatre.
What’s not to like about this crazy show, filled with exuberant singing, inoffensive innuendo and split-second timing?
This spoof on ancient Rome is peopled with a set of unlikely characters, including a pair of over-the-top soldiers (Sean Baker and Gabriel MacDonald); an unhappily married couple played by Shauna Baird and Gordon Roberts; a dotty mother (Iris Bannerman) looking for her lost children; Jacob Richmond as a sleazy brothel-keeper; Kieran Foss as the shy young man in love with the virgin Phylia who is destined for life as a high-class prostitute – all of these characters are topped off a weird collection of courtesans – and the real comedians, Damon Calderwood and Britt Small as slaves engineering the entire madcap scenario!
Did I mention a plot? Well, a story about the slave Psuedelous trying to buy her freedom by setting her young master, Hero, up with the girl of his dreams sort of holds these zany folks together and gives them a place to hang their idiotic hats. Great fun!
There is not a single weak moment or below-par character in this ridiculous musical comedy from 1963. Small and Calderwood get the gold stars for being so absurdly funny, but all the minor characters are gems in their own right, adding to the visual magnetism of the show. Jana Morrison shows some stunning dance moves, and Carter Gulseth and Cieran Volke use their bodies in a most sensational fashion!
Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics are brisk and clever and the whole cast have great singing voices. Actually, I think they could all have been quite audible without their ear microphones, as the sound was almost too much at times. But it was clear that everyone was having a rollicking good time, and they drew their audience in with their enthusiasm and energy.
The cast and crew will all be due for a good rest when the show closes Aug. 11. Director Kevin McKendrick deserves applause (or a medal) for keeping everyone on track, as this performance could easily have got completely out of hand. And kudos to Brian Ball for the inventive costumes, and for the simple set, which has the required number of doors and openings to accommodate a true farce.
If it’s time for you to let go of life’s pressures with a good belly laugh, be sure to see A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. For tickets go to bluebridgetheatre.ca or call 250-382-3370.