In the spirit of Roman comedy, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” opened with laughs and amusement. The Stephen Sondheim musical, directed by Patrick J. Fennell and performed at Saddleback College’s McKinney Theatre on Feb. 27 through March 7, featured a talented and entertaining cast who brought to life the story of Roman slave Pseudolus, and his attempts to win his freedom.
During Act I of “A Funny Thing Happened” Pseudolus, expertly played by Kyle Milner, attempts to gain freedom by pairing his young master, Hero, played by Michael Mayo, with the ever-aloof courtesan Philia, played by Casey Roy. Things seem to go according to plan until Philia admits she believes she must go with Miles Gloriosus, played by Alex Evans, the man who bought her from pimp Marcus Lycus, played by Tyler Christman. Things become further comedically complicated when Hero’s sex-crazed father Senex, played by Joe Lehr, returns home and mistakes Philia for a maid while she mistakes him for Miles Gloriosus come to claim her as his wife.
Milner dominated the first Act with his comedic portrayal of Pseudolus, but Act II belonged to Andy George and his depiction of the neurotic Hysterium. One of the most memorable scenes in the musical was Hysterium pretending to be a deceased Philia during the funeral sequence. This scene played on both the character’s own femininity, as well as the stupidity of Miles Gloriosus. The scene then erupts into further confusion of mistaken identities and misunderstandings as it seems that everyone has either disguised themselves as Philia or is searching for her.
Whether due to a malfunctioning microphone or opening night jitters, both Lehr and Christman, struggled to project their vocals beyond the tenth row. This was particularly evident during the singing of “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid” when the hard-to-hear vocals of Lehr and Christman were overshadowed by the loud and strong vocals of Milner and George. Yet what Lehr and Christman lacked in vocal strength they made up in their ability to get the audience laughing at their comedic timing and ability to get into character.
Despite the complications in the performance, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” seemed to be well received by the opening night audience. “I went because my brother, Matthew Fauls [Protean], was in the musical,” says Katie Fauls, 22, nursing. “But I thought it was very funny and the actors, even though not professional, did a very good job. It’s a show that is definitely worth the money. I would recommend anyone who is interested in musicals or plays to go see one at Saddleback College.”
“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” has closed its run at McKinney Theatre. To order tickets or to find out more about future Saddleback College performances, please call 949-582-4656 or visit www.saddleback.edu/arts.