A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum was a well-executed musical, giving audiences the opportunity to get away from it all and enjoy "comedy tonight and morals tomorrow".
"How do you present the misguided and dated early work of a genius like Sondheim? Watch This have an all female-identifying cast in a show where the woman are traditionally stupid or nothing more than bodies. They aren't playing men or making fun of them, but are presenting the characters from a female POV. Every character represents something about how women are seen on stages. It's confronting and liberating. So much about gender is questioned and reimagined."
It's a bold presumption and it works in spades. Under Hillman's skillful direction, I was presented with a show that was fast paced, hilariously funny, and where the concept of gender became irrelevant. I was caught up in the magic of theatre, simply watching characters play out their story with gusto and truth. It honestly didn't matter who was officially male or female – I was watching real people performing at the top of their game... It's pure stage magic, so don't miss seeing this show, which runs until 24 September.
One of the many highlight performances in this production was from none other than Kristie Nguy in the multi-character role as each of the Courtesans during 'The House of Marcus Lycus'...
The comedy really kicked it into overdrive when we were introduced to Mel O'Brien's Philia. O'Brien is utterly hilarious as the young and innocent virgin bride, Philia. I was in absolute hysterics the moment she stepped on the stage, batting her eyelids, pressing her lips, and swaying her body side to side. The moment that Hartill and O'Brien kissed even had me keeling over in laughter. Not only is O'Brien a natural comic, but she also has the vocal chops to match and the pair have excellent chemistry together. Shoutouts to Jacqueline Hoy as Hysterium, Cathy Woodhouse's Senex, Sophie Weiss' Dominia, and Luisa Scrofani as the army captain Miles Gloriosus, all fantastic in their respective roles. And I cannot forget the legendary Judith Roberts as Erronius. Some say, she is still doing laps around the Chapel theatre. Just see the show and you'll see what I mean.
The performers were so obviously talented and experiences, their voices refined and their cohesion as a cast understated...the jest and silliness of it all left me beaming amongst the laughing audience.
Making its debut and for a limited time only at Melbourne's Chapel Off Chapel, is the high energy, and hilarious production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum... The cast were simply brilliant from start to finish. It was difficult to spot any flaws in their performance, especially given some played multiple characters with different accents and costumes making the seamless transition within seconds.
If you really want to go and see such old and out-dated theatrical offerings such as A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum then this is the one to see. At least this one says something new and current rather than engraving old patriarchal tropes even deeper into our psyche. Oh, and yes, it is very funny. Literally a laugh a minute.
The set design by Sarah Tulloch is eye-catching: towering columns and marble-esq plinths in a V-formation make the most of the tight confines of Chapel Off Chapel. The ear-worm of the famous opening number, Comedy Tonight, showcases the cast's incredible diversity and the power of their combined vocals. Musical Director Trevor Jones has impressively transposed many of the show's numbers to match the new cast without compromising any of their vibrancy.
By and large, the vocalisation is strong, the chorus numbers particularly melodic. Jemima Johnston's costuming has bold and bawdy elements to it, while the set (the designer is Sarah Tulloch) is suitably Romanesque...Director Melanie Hillman and musical director Trevor Jones have given us a fun-filled, smile inducing night of entertainment.
This production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum from the Watch This company is delightful entertainment – great performances, polished direction and songs you can remember the next day (and longer).
Leading the way are Gorman who is a most energetic and enthusiastic Pseudolus and O'Brien who is very funny as naïve Philia. Also worthy of praise is the very hard-working Kristie Nguy who plays numerous characters." - Jenny Burns
The hardest-working performer on Chapel Off Chapel's stage has to be the energetic Kristie Nguyen. Her many roles might be small (she plays the entire ensemble), but this little pocket rocket shines, making the most of what she's been given. The two best vocal performances belong to Luisa Scrofani (as Miles Gloriosus) and Sophie Weiss (as Domina). Weiss, who sings "That Dirty Old Man," has only one song in the second act, but she left me wanting to hear her sing more
Packed full of slapstick satire and bawdy jokes, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is a breathe of fresh air delivered by theatre company Watch This. The all female-identifying cast are packed with talent, and Mel Hillman's fast paced and upbeat direction delivers a flawless performance.
Hillman's cast is such an assortment of shape, size, faces and athleticism that each of the ensemble's idiosyncratic roles are catered for and, overall, carried off successfully. It really isn't difficult surrendering to Hillman's idea.
Making theatre a happy and joyous place to spend time in. If you want a fun night out, this show is the one to see... What was very clear about this production, is that they cultivated a stacked cast. All 10 actors shone in their respective rolls and showed how much talent can be found in Melbourne if you're willing to look beyond familiar faces.