A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum

Something familiar, something peculiar, something for everyone is happening tonight –or rather, Friday through Sunday nights, January 29 – January 31, 2016, at 6 p.m. That’s when the Sheridan Arts Foundation Young People’s Theatre presents director Jen Julia’s adaptation – for the second time around – of  “A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum,” book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gilbert; music and lyrics, Stephen Sondheim. 

The production takes place at Telluride’s historic Sheridan Opera House. Tickets, $15 for adults; $12 for children 12 and under here. (Lap children are free.)


Forum’s screwball plot features Peudolus, a slave who works for the son of a dirty old man named Senex, who is married to a shrewish wife, Domina. The couple takes off for Rome to visit her mother, leaving their callow son in the care of chief slave named Hysterium, with instructions to keep Hero from getting tangled up in his own britches. Instead Hero winds up in knots – love knots – having fallen hard for a virgin courtesan named Philia, whom he spied in the window of the house next door, a bordello run by Marcia Lycus.

Pseudolos discovers Hero’s passion and arranges to help the boy meet the girl of his dreams in exchange for his freedom. Philia, however, is betrothed. Her intended is a Roman general, Niles Glorious, due back in Rome shortly.

Dum dee dum dum…

Undaunted, the slow-witted Philia and pining Hero follow the urgings of their hearts – and parts south.

The tangled web Pseudolus tries to weave starts to unravel fast.

In the course of the play, Pseudolus pretends to be Marcia Lycus. Philia pretends to be a maid. Hysteria pretends to be Philia.

Meanwhile, the house on the other side of the Senex manse is inhabited by an elderly man who spent the last 18 years searching for his children, stolen by pirates as infants. Masquerading as a soothsayer, Pseudolus tells this guy, Erronius, he will find his offspring only if he runs seven times around the Seven Hills of Rome.

How does it all end? Erronius forgets about his kids and tries out for the Olympics. (Not.)

You know full well after listening to the opening number, a kind of smoking gun set to music, “Comedy Tonight,” whose lyrics sum up: “No royal curse. No Trojan horse. And a happy ending, of course.”

Then again, we all could be wrong. Follow the plot of the original (above) at your own peril: Jen Julia tends to have her way with storylines, often adjusting narratives to better serve the talents of her local cast.

Years ago (2003 to be exact), Julia told me in an interview she had seen “Forum” with her own parents when she was in grad school.

“I thought the play was so quick and so clever. Although it was a musical, it was not so much about music as it was about wit. A lot of the music was pure exposition. I thought ‘Some day I want to direct this play with the right cast.’ The director’s challenge with ‘Forum’ is finding the rhythm of the piece, then getting a cast to pick up on the madcap pacing…”

According to Julia, another great thing about ‘Forum’ is the language:

“The jokes are not the stuff of sitcoms or the broad gags of Monty Python. They are layered with double entendre. Senex and Domina’s relationship is a parody of Jackie’s Gleason’s ‘Honeymooners.’”

The original “Forum” opened in May 1962 with Zero Mostel playing Pseudolus. The production ran for 964 performances and won Tonys for Best Musical, Best Producer, Best Book, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actor.

The soundtrack debuted on the Billboard charts in July 1962, reaching #60 and stayed on the charts for 14 weeks.

Julia’s “Forum” promises to be low comedy that gets really high marks too.

Featured are Matt Palamar, Jaxon Mosher, Rye Overly, Will Plantz, Ronin Wilkes, Dietz Woehle, Heidi Kreig, Megan Reich, Rubie DeLuca, Macy Desmarais, Sydney Evans, Isabell Richard, Aidan Green, Connor Overly, Camilla Gardner, Max Dwight, Hannah Reich, Sam Finger, Makenna Craige, Meghan Mazzocchi, and Benjamin Potter.

Songs include “Comedy Tonight,” “I’m Lovely,” and “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid.”

The Sheridan Arts Foundation was founded in 1991 as a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization to preserve the historic Sheridan Opera House as an arts and cultural resource for the Telluride community, to bring quality arts and cultural events to Telluride and to provide local and national youth with access and exposure to the arts through education.  The Sheridan Arts Foundation is sponsored in part by grants from the Telluride Foundation. CCAASE and Just for Kids. 

1 Comment
  • nicole finger
    Posted at 11:32h, 24 January

    Thanks! Can’t wait!