“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” a review



Last week, in FLORIDA TODAY, Steven Heron was quoted as saying he hoped that eventually, entertainment-hungry people throughout the county would ask what’s going on at Titusville Playhouse.

That wish is closer to becoming reality with shows like “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”
TPI’s production, which opened Friday, is, bottom line, hysterical and oh-so-very well done.

For those who have led a culturally impoverished life — “Forum” is a 1962 musical comedy set in ancient Rome and performed in unabashed presentational style, in which performers speak and play to the audience. With brilliant music and lyrics by then 32 year old Stephen Sondheim and book by comedy masters Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, the story takes us through a day in the harried life of a Roman slave named Pseudolus. A Roman conqueror, young lovers, a beleaguered husband, courtesans and their procurer weave their way through this day as well.

That’s a lot of comedic potential, and TPI delivers thanks to the show’s tight direction, an appealing scenic design and a very funny cast led by three professional actors: Steven J. Heron, Stephan J. Jones and Patrick Ryan Sullivan, who also directs.

As Pseudolus, Mr. Heron is nothing less than drop-dead hysterical. He commands the stage as if it were his own boudoir, gesturing here and flitting there, addressing the audience. His timing is delicious, with double and triple takes wrought with big comic flair.

Mr. Jones is a popular and critically acclaimed Orlando actor who was so compelling as Sweeny Todd in the Mad Cow production. Here, as conqueror Miles Gloriosus, Mr. Jones churns up a sinfully funny performance which reveals his comic mettle, a rarity for most dramatic actors.

Mr. Sullivan, he of Broadway acclaim, is typically cast into heroic leads, romantic men with towering ambition. Here, though, he is the henpecked husband, Senex. Mr. Sullivan paints him with such nebbishy delight that you have to laugh just looking at him. As the production’s director, Mr. Sullivan finds broad strokes for each cast member and turns in a quick-paced production that is as strong on teamwork as it is on individual spotlights.

What’s particularly sweet with this show is that the pros here have obviously inspired the rest of the cast to greater heights.

And they are so funny. A few of the standouts include: Jesse Huffman as the head slave, Hysterium; J.D. Hunt as starry-eyed Hero; Tiffani LeBlanc as daffy Philia; Amiee Supp as sadistic Gymnasia; and Josh Brown Rich Jones and Doug Lebo as the Proteans.

Kudos to scenic designer Jim Ball, costume designer Katy Ball, lighting designer Philip Lupo and follow-spot operators Gabi Brantley and Danielle Bruce.

This is such a winning production, you might want to go twice. But methinks word is already spreading. No matter where you live in this long county, a trip to Titusville Playhouse to see “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” is so very worth your time and money.

SIDE O’ GRITS: “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” runs through March 11 at Titusville Playhouse, which performs at Emma Parrish Theatre, 301 Julia St., Titusville. Tickets are $18 to $20 plus $2 discounts for seniors, students and active military. Handling charges may apply. Call 321-268-1125 or visit