A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to The Forum.
The Gilbert & Sullivan Society of SA. Scott Theatre - 21 to 28 May.
Stephen Sondheim penned the music and lyrics to A Funny Thing dot dot dot in 1962, five years after West Side Story, but he still couldn’t get those Latin beats out of his system, beginning with the overture. For those of you who still don’t know, A Funny Thing dot dot dot is a romantic farce centred on our hero, the Roman slave, Pseudolus, attempting to gain his freedom by winning for his master the courtesan next door. His web of deceit leads to comically pressurised situations, mucho mistaken identity and bawdy Benny Hill-style chasey scenes. The book is so misogynist it could have been written by Hugh Hefner. Sort of what we associate with the British comedy of Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft, except A Funny Thing dot dot dot precedes Lloyd and Croft’s Up Pompeii? by nine years. Every actor who played the role of Pseudolus on Broadway in the last century has won a Tony for his toils.
Director Barry Hill assembled largely the correct cast and produced a well-paced production with great attention paid to comic timing and with numerous humourous choreographical arrangements by Kerry Hauber. Nicholas Bishop is a high energy performer who demonstrated a virtuosity in musical theatre just in the prologue, but was a miss hit as Pseudolus. He had the bearing and voice of a higher status character and I did not see a Pseudolus on Struggle Street. Pseudolus seemed more like a crisis manager than a comedic figure desperately entangled in self-inflicted machinations. The jawbone was not connected from the funny bone. He was not helped by the commedia dell’arte tunic and multi-coloured pants foisted upon him and his fellow slave by designer Bronwen Major, who did a great job costuming everybody else.
James Nicholson, playing the love struck adolescent and owner of Pseudolus, recently arrived in Adelaide to study music at the Elder Conservatorium. He sings like a cherub and looks like one, too. His opening number, “Love, I Hear,” had me dumbstruck. Natalie Tate playing his love interest made her Philia about as stupid as you can get, but Tate is also studying at the conservatorium and also has a brilliant career ahead of her. John Greene, who played the eponymous role in The Mikado in 2005 for Opera Australia, David Rapkin as the pimp and Peter Hopkins as the Captain all had the right stuff in posturing and character. Greg Beer’s Hysterium was a little contrived. The Proteans comprising Beau-Daniel Loumeau, Patrick Witcombe, Chris Anderson and Tom Bubner really got into the spirit of the piece and were a real hoot. But what were those eunuchs on? The stable of slave courtesans expressed a high level of individuality and skill in their dance numbers. Great work by choreographer Kerry. Designer Chris Anderson’s villas demonstrated that three very different houses don’t make a neighbourhood. James Clark’s orchestra was fine except for some soaring notes.
Nothing appalling. Always appealing.
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