A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is baby Sondheim

With a show as old as the playwright Platus from whom it was inspired, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum opens the Fighting Chance Productions’ 2011/2012 season at the Jericho Arts Centre today.

Cameron Dunster in the Fighting Chance Productions presentation of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the ForumOkay, that might be tad overstated since Platus actually lived from 251–183 BC, but celebrating the 50th anniversary of its first Broadway run in 2012, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is definitely a show from a different era.  According to Cameron Dunster though, who plays Hero in the production, that’s exactly what makes it so special.

“The show is very vaudeville,” explained Dunster.  “There is a lot of slapstick humour to it and it is nice to be able to revisit that type of comedy.  You don’t get to see that very much anymore on stage so it is nice to see it being done.  Plus it is very, very funny”.

For Dunster it isn’t just about revisiting a comedy genre from a bygone era though, it is also about the impact that this particular show has on an audience.

“The style of comedy is so exciting and it gets everyone riled up and into it,” he enthused.  “The audience can easily get caught up the madness, especially in a space like the Jericho Arts Centre, and they really start to feel like they are part of the action.”

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum tells the bawdy story of a slave named Pseudolus and his attempt to win his freedom by helping his young master, Dunster’s Hero, win the heart of the girl-next-door.

As Stephen Sondheim’s first musical where he wrote both music and lyrics, it is considered by some to be the closest thing to a traditional musical that Sondheim has written.

“This is baby Sondheim,” laughed Dunster.  “It is not as complex as some of his other stuff but there are still some very tricky parts and the writing is very good, so I hope people will still recognize it as being Sondheim”.

What audiences may not recognize though is Fighting Chance’s Artistic Director Ryan Mooney who finds himself on stage instead of his usual director’s chair for this production.  Playing the role of Pseudolus, we asked Dunster to serve up the dirt on Mooney as an actor.  But whether he is being honest or knows where his bread is buttered, he wasn’t biting.

“He’s definitely different as an actor,” said Dunster dryly.  “He hasn’t acted in a long time, but he’s coming along.  He does take direction well but then he and Cathy [director Cathy Wilmot] seem to have a similar sense of humour which helps.  I think he is going to be great”.

Of course we’ll just have to wait for opening night to see if Mooney, and the rest of the cast for that matter, are up for the comedy tonight.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
4 – 22 October 2011
Jericho Arts Centre

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum takes comedy back to its roots, combining situations from time-tested, 2000-year-old comedies of Roman playwright Plautus with the infectious energy of classic vaudeville. The result is a non-stop laugh-fest in which a crafty slave struggles to win the hand of a beautiful but slow-witted courtesan for his young master, in exchange for freedom. Visit http://fightingchanceproductions.ca for tickets and information.

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