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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum Review

I'm trying to put a creative title on this review but the play's title alone already occupied more than the recommended title length on blogs. Last week I was invited on a musical play presentation and it just so happen that it is this funny show that appears to be having music and lyrics by the great Stephen Sondheim.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is inspired by a roman comedy of the ancient Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus (251–183 BC). The musical chronicles the story of a slave named Pseudolus (Chino Veguillas) and his attempts to win his freedom by doing a big favor for his Master's son, Hero (Jacob Gayanelo). But a simple tasks led to a chaos when several more characters stumbled upon Pseudolus' plans. This leads to a series of unfortunate events that ends up involving more faces than you ever expect.

A Funny thing Happened... is first presented on Broadway on May 8, 1962 at the Alvin Theatre. The show is Directed by George Abbott and produced by Hal Prince. It ran for 964 performances on Broadway alone and won Stephen Sondheim 8 Tony Awards (including one for Lifetime Achievement), an Academy Award, a Pulitzer Prize and several Grammy Awards.

Watching this show makes me remember the old saying that "don't judge a book by its cover" or rather by its author/writer. Seeing West Side Story and Sweeney Todd (and soon A Little Night Music), It didn't really crossed my mind that this comedy is a creation of Sondheim. Before, I knew Sondheim to be more serious with his fusion of Nostalgia and Sentimental Ballads on his works but it appears that I'm very wrong.

The song alone makes this show very enjoying. Far from the one I expect. The musical starts with a very joyful number with Chino Veguillas (Princess and the Red Carp and Master Class) as Pseudolus. Then he is joined by the rest of the company presenting the opening act. This show is a complete laugh trip though I find the humor to be very sitcom-ish, but situational comedy is still much better than the common slapsticks that we usually get from some tv series and movies.

In terms of acting, everyone did a very well job for being very ridiculous. As in ridiculously insane while dancing and singing the tunes on the most awkward way possible.  If acting serious is already difficult for stage performers then being funny in front of an audience is big task.  And I can say that every single cast member delivered their very best to make us teary eyed not because of sadness but because of overflowing laughter.  

But if I will be asked who is the character that left a good impression to me I must say that as much as I want to say Pseudolus (Chino) which is no doubt did a very good work being the primary lead of the show, my favorite role will still be Hysterium played by Benjor Catindig. His name perfectly defines his character who is full of violent mental agitation. He is the very reason why I almost got an Asthma attack that day I watched the show for making me laugh so hard. Among the runners up are Senex played by Gary Junsay, the effeminate Marcus Lycus played by Zig Hagamann and the trio of Proteans played by Dave Corpin, Daryl Zarraga and Nathan Zamesa who also amused me on his portrayal of the giant courtesan Gymnasia.

I would also want to commend the work done on the production design. Just like how all previous Theater Down South shows, they keep it simple and minimalistic but still managed to make it very extravagant and detailed. The colorful set and costumes also helps make the show kid friendly making it appropriate for younger range audience.

Indeed this is another great serving from an equally great director, Michael Williams who happens to be the director of another past Sondheim show, Sweeney Todd (Repertory Philippines). I highly recommend this show to everyone. Specially to those who already saw most of Sondheim's work, this could be something new for everyone. A very relaxing and fun show that the whole family can enjoy.

Catch the final shows this coming October 24 and 30 at Insular Life Theater Alabang. For tickets and show times, call Ticketworld at 891-9999 or visit www.ticketworld.com.ph. For more information about Theater Down South current and upcoming shows, go to the official site or add them on facebook.

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