Book by Larry Gelbart and Burt Shevelove, Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Brian P. Allen, Choreography by Tyler Sperry, Musical Direction by Victoria Stubbs
Starring Tony Reilly, Denise Poirier, Steve Underwood, Will Sandstead, Annie Unnold, Christopher Reilling, Cathy Counts, Glenn Anderson, Bill Ellis, Tyler Sperry, Haley Bennett, Erik Moody, Janis Greim, Nell Green-Shipman, Jeanne Handy, Vanessa Beyland, Jen Means?What is there to say? Forum just may be the funniest musical ever written! A cast of 18 will delight audiences with great comic timing, humorous gags, double takes, triple takes and outrageous situations. This fast paced, over the top romp is always unique, so even if you've seen Forum before, you've never seen it like this. A great way to cast off the winter blues is to join us for this multiple Tony Award winning musical. The original 1963 production of Forum won 6 Tony Awards including Best Musical.
FARCICAL FUN FLOWS FREELY IN 'FORUM'
Maine Sunday Telegram By By April Boyle 1/25/2009
The Good Theater is taking the absurd to new heights with an utterly ridiculous rendition of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Forum" that's sure to put smiles on the faces of theatergoers.
It's one of those guilty-pleasure productions that make you shake your head with disbelief at just how silly and over-the-top it is. You may even chastise yourself for laughing, but that won't stop the chuckles from spilling from your lips. "Forum" is a fun-filled romp into ancient Rome, and the Good Theater leaves no farcical stone unturned.
The production opened Friday with Tony Reilly heading up the cast as Pseudolus, Hero's scheming slave and the audience's irreverent guide. Reilly delivered an engaging performance that sizzled with satirical wit and comical expressions.
He remained on stage for much of the production, never seeming to tire.
The Good Theater got the farcical fun flowing with a laugh-out-loud rendition of "Comedy Tonight" that delightfully mocked the tragedy genre with black-clad cast members clutching severed "hands" as they mournfully wailed from the stage and in the aisles. Laughter erupted as Reilly admonished the cast, "tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight." Their expressions were priceless.
The song nicely introduced the audience to the 18-member cast and three-piece band, led by Terry Hanson on keyboard.
"Forum's" cast is the largest one the theater has used to date, and features Good Theater favorites and local and national talent.
Director Brian P. Allen has cast a treasure-trove of performers who clearly don't mind making complete fools of themselves. It was obvious they were having a ball Friday, which made it all the more fun for the audience.
Haley Bennett, Betsy Melarkey Dunphy, Erik Moody and Tyler Sperry were instant favorites as the Proteans, clownishly portraying pirates, slaves, eunuchs and soldiers.
The four hammed it up, with Moody unleashing an arsenal of freakishly funny expressions and gestures that provided an unending source of amusement.
Sperry, a principal dancer with the Portland Ballet Company, also provided the choreography for the production.
His talent and power shined through the ridiculousness as he effortlessly and gracefully danced across the small stage scantily dressed as a male courtesan, straight from "George of the Jungle."
Fellow dancers Jeanne Handy, Janis Greim, Vanessa Beyland, Jen Means and Nell Shipman were also marvels as the beautiful female courtesans.
Theatergoers will recognize a lot of names from this talented cast. Good Theater co-founder Stephen Underwood, also known for his work with the Maine Hysterical Society, plays Senex, the lecherous father of Hero, who is delightfully portrayed by local actor Chris Reiling.
Both are tall and lanky, with rubbery facial expressions and an innate sense of comic timing, making them seem like they truly are cut out of the same DNA cloth.
The cast also includes the multitalented Denise Poirier as Hero's mother Domina, Will Sandstead as Hysterium (Senex's and Domina's slave), Cathy Counts as courtesan procurer Marcus Lycus, Annie Unnold as Hero's love interest Philia, Bill Ellis as Miles Gloriosus and Maine State Music Theatre regular Glenn Anderson as Erronius. All shine.
The Good Theater has chosen a delightful production to break up the winter blues.
"Forum" is an outrageous lark that pokes fun at the formulaic nature of classic theater, with plenty of mistaken identity and ensuing madness to keep the laughter rolling.
And with a shamelessly entertaining musical score by Stephen Sondheim, it's hard to miss the mark.
THE PORTLAND PHOENIX
by Megan Grumbling, 1/28/2009
Colorful archetypes abound in this super-stratified society of ancient Rome: The dirty old rich man, Senex (Stephen Underwood), is perfectly, shamelessly giddy over the lovely virgin, Philia (Annie Unnold). He's also perfectly pussy-whipped by Domina (Denise Poirier), the utterly imperious wife. Their impossibly innocent son, Hero (Chris Reiling), is pie-eyed with thwarted love for same said virgin, and then there's the household help: The good slave, Hysterium (Will Sandstead), is a completely insufferable brown-noser, while the lazy, rogue slave, Pseudolus (Tony Reilly), will seize on any scheme to win his own freedom. These and other pointedly named characters collide and ricochet in the Sondheim musical farce A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, on stage now in a buoyant and lavishly appointed production by the Good Theater, directed by Brian P. Allen.
Unfortunately for young Hero, the lovely virgin is also a slave and a courtesan in the brothel of madam Marcus Lycus (Cathy Counts) next door, and she is about to be sold to the narcissistic warrior Miles Gloriosus (Bill Ellis). But wily Pseudolus - who is also the show's charismatic narrator - sees an opportunity. There follows a slew of disguises, potions, untruths, and self-interested slapstick misbehavior (accented nicely by the live band's rim-shots, cowbell, and slide whistle) by characters both low and high on the social ladder.
Vivid is the visual contrast between those classes, thanks to the Good Theater's superb production design: the lowly are cartoonishly scruffy, the rich absolutely sumptuous. Pseudolus and his gang of Proteans (ever-morphing players who help with the exposition) wear blah shifts, striped leggings, and Chucks. For the well-heeled Romans, wardrobe coordinator Nina Jones acquired some decadent costumes on loan from the Cincinnati Playhouse, making the wealthy gleam in metallic and royal-hued luxury, the men bearing alluringly shiny daggers and swords, the women coiffed with glamorous wigs. Janet Montgomery's gorgeous set paints Senex's house in burnished ocher and orange, while the house of flesh next door is all cool seduction in indigo and silver.
The courtesans who emerge from it to ply their wares are manna for the eyes. Lithe Tintinabula (professional belly dancer Jeanne Handy) undulates and rings finger chimes; Panacea (Janis Greim) strikes poses in the blue sequins of an Ice-Capades-meets-Frederick's-of-Hollywood ensemble; and bendy Gymnasia (Nell Shipman) glowers over her chrome-domed bustier. The Geminae (Vanessa Beyland and Jen Means), twin redheads with bob cuts, cavort together in coral ombrû chiffon under red gels. Lush stuff!
Forum calls for a big, boisterous cast. Not every voice in this production is Broadway caliber, but the strength of the ensemble more than compensates, and it brims with local favorites in some very sharp casting. I use the word "louche" a lot when I'm reviewing Tony Reilly, but he's just so damn good at it; his shuffling Pseudolus is a lecherous but affable trickster. Underwood and Reiling, both lean, leggy, and very expressive physical actors, are a super father-son duo, and as for Domina, I can't think of a better choice than Poirier, with her haughty poise and the terrifying upswing in that voice of hers. As her rival Philia, the plot's virgin linchpin, Unnold has a sheer voice and easy, facile radiance.
Allen's nimble cast keeps everything frothy and tongue-in-cheek in this unabashedly light romp. The show's comic timing, its eye candy, and its vaudevillian titillations should sate a whole social array of pleasure-seekers.
Music & lyrics Stephen Sondheim; book by Larry Gelbart & Burt Shevelove
Directed by Brian P. Allen; musical director Terry Hanson, choreography Tyler Sperry
Pseudolous - Tony Reilly
Senex - Stephen Underwood
Domina - Denise Poirier
Hysterium - Will Sandstead
Philia - Annie Unnold
Hero - Christopher Reilling
Lycus - Cathy Counts
Erronius - Glenn Anderson
Miles - Bill Ellis
Protean 1 - Tyler Sperry
Protean 2 - Haley Bennett
Protean 3 - Erik Moody
Protean 4 - Betsy Dunphy
Panacea - Janis Greim
Gymnasia - Nell Green-Shipman
Tintanabula - Jeanne Handy
Gemini 1 - Vanessa Beyland
Gemini 2 - Jen Means
Set Design - Janet Montgomery
Lighting Design - Jamie Grant
Costumes - Nina Jones
Technical Director - Stephen Underwood
Assistant Technical Director - Craig Robinson
Production Stage Manager - Joshua Hurd
* Member Actors' Equity Association