A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum
The Florians Theatre
TO borrow a line from Stephen Sondheim’s well known opening song, there was "nothing portentous or polite" in The Florians’ visit to Ancient Rome, but certainly the promise of "Comedy Tonight" was made good.
Employing all the old farce ingredients of mistaken identities, over elaborate schemes, smart servants and dim masters that should have been even familiar to the characters’ contemporaries, The Florians’ foray into a full blown musical was a fast paced affair which did not even slow down for the musical numbers thanks to Sondheim’s reliably witty lyrics.
Although it provides its ensemble cast with plenty to do, the success of the piece rests largely with the lead actor playing wily slave Pseudolus.
It is a plumb of a role and probably no coincidence that every actor who has opened in the part on Broadway (Zero Mostel, Phil Silvers and Nathan Lane) has been rewarded with a Best Leading Actor Tony Award.
The Florians’ Leonard King rises to the challenge with a knack for comic timing and an ability to be funny even when not delivering Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart’s lines.
Namesake Jon King as fellow slave Hysterium, the man who has to help salvage the situation when Pseudolus’s schemes do not quite go to plan, also settled into his part to give good value as the show approached its frenetic climax.
If there was a suspicion that some of the company members had been cast because they were available rather than suitability for the role, casting was spot on with Steve Kelly, challenging Russell Crowe by way of Brian Blessed as rather too sure of himself Roman warrior Miles Gloriosos and Alison Ozog as the lovely Philia, the love interest of the hapless Hero (Stephen Laurie), while Eddie Docherty and Liz McLardy made a good pairing as Hero’s parents, the henpecked but secretly lecherous Senex and his shrewish wife Domina.
The small set was compensated for by the enthusiastic execution of the set pieces, both comic and musical on the way to that predicted happy ending.
As the song says: "This time it all turns out all right — tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight!"
• A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum continues at The Florians Theatre until Saturday 19th September.