I really do applaud any company brave enough to even attempt staging a big musical in a tiny space. And Stone Revellers earned a very warm round of applause from a very receptive audience after using every inch of the stage and auditorium in their production of Stephen Sondheim and Burt Shevelove’s 1962 musical farce A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
Shevelove’s book is one of the funniest ever written for a Broadway musical, and the jokes come thick and fast, requiring excellent timing from all members of the cast. At the centre of the deliberately convoluted plot the conniving slave Pseudolus is excellently played by Mark Norris, very well supported by Alec Voss as hysterical slave Hysterium and Vicky Webb as the courtesan Philia. The facial expressions of all three are wonderfully over the top. Voss was the willing supporting player in the evening’s best musical moment, “That dirty old man”, deliciously delivered by Helene Sandy. Special mention also to Bill Cole’s delightfully dotty Erronius; a delightful cameo.
The physical humour comes over very well in Mark Doran’s production, finding a lot of characterful work for the supporting Proteans and Courtesan dancers, and the simple three door set very effectively makes the best use possible of the limited space.
Sadly there were some technical issues I cannot ignore; the band seemed under rehearsed and unsure at several points in the score, and with Sondheim’s typically tricky rhythms to cope with the cast did amazingly well to keep several of the numbers going. But they performed at all times with real energy and commitment, and the final chase sequence, which seemed to go on for nearly 10 minutes, nevertheless kept the audience engaged and laughing throughout.
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