Monday, September 12, 2011

Stage Door Theatre: A Funny Thing Happened...(4 reviews)

The Stage Door Theatre opened its production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum on  September 2, 2011.
"Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight!" Broadway's Tony-winning greatest farce is light, fast-paced, witty, irreverent and one of the funniest musicals ever written – the perfect escape from life's troubles. This non-stop laugh-fest is an uninhibited romp of puns, gags, lechery, and surprises.
Dan Kelly directed a cast that included himself, Ken Clement, Lauren Cupples, Mark A. Harmon, Christine De Frece, Andrew Betz, Shane R. Tanner, Ricky Dain Jones, and Jack Livesy.  Choreography by Chrissi Ardito.

Mary Damiano reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
...the Saturday matinee audience at Stage Door applauded, laughed and seemed to enjoy this production, and it does have some truly enjoyable moments, but most of the show is just okay.
Dan Kelley, who also directs, plays Pseudolus... too broadly, mugging his way through scenes, goading the audience into laughing.  Kelley the actor would have benefited from a more objective director.
There are, thankfully, bright spots in this production. Shane R. Tanner is the picture of braggadocio as warrior Miles Gloriosus.  Mark A. Harmon is appropriately smarmy as Marcus Lycus, a seller of courtesans.  Ken Clement is delightful as Senex, a downtrodden, sex-starved husband.  The Proteans (Jereme Philip Marlow, Frank Vomero and Curtis Roth) do well with Chrissi Ardito’s acrobatic choreography.
J.W. Arnold reviews for South Florida Gay News:
Did I mention the show is pretty gay? From the gaggle of giggling eunuchs skipping across the stage to the fetish fantasies suggested by Gymnasia and Miles Gloriosus, it’s blatantly stereotypical and still hilarious. Hysterium is pretty fey and so is Pseudolus in the hands of Kelley, who frequently takes his performance over the top, completely overshadowing his costars.
Musically, the score, unlike many of Sondheim’s later works, is melodic and accessible and, under the musical direction of David Nagy, sung with gusto. Kudos to Stage Door for taking on relatively large shows at a time when most theaters are cutting back...
Chrissi Ardito’s choreography is once again superb, employing physical comedy, acrobatics and clever tricks throughout. And Anthony White’s lighting design accentuates the relatively simple staging of the show, which takes place in front of three cartoonish Roman houses designed by Ardean Landhuis.

Once again, Stage Door employs the vast resources of Costume World to outfit its cast in colorful—indeed flamboyant—Romanesque wear. More than one local drag queen is undoubtedly salivating over Miles Gloriosus’ ostrich plumed helmet and I know I’ve seen Gymnasia’s gilded metal D-cups on stage somewhere.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami Artzine:
There's nothing better than a well-done revival of a favorite old musical and that's exactly what's playing right now at the Broward Stage Door Theatre. 
Whoever cast this show (Kelley, I guess, as he's also the director) did a knock down job with the courtesans.  They're lissome, beautiful young women who move well and look great in their costumes...  All hail the courtesans!  Oh, yeah!
And as to the performances?  Kelley, Clement, Tanner, Harmon and Andrew Betz are all very good.  They're enjoying their play and you can tell it.
...Everyone sings well in this show and David Nagy's musical direction reinforces that.  If you don't leave Broward Stage Door humming some of these songs you better check your hearing aids.  The batteries are flat.

There's no denying that some of the performances are not all they should be and the door slamming scramble in the second act slows the show a little, but all in all this A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum is a well produced, good humored show.   Smile some, sing some, you'll be in a good mood for hours. 
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is back at the Broward Stage Door Theatre a dozen years after the company first presented it. And once again, director Dan Kelley is doing double duty by starring as Pseudolus, a wily Roman slave determined to scheme his way to freedom.

Pseudolus is, demonstrably, the kind of role that wins awards. Zero Mostel, Phil Silvers and Nathan Lane all captured best actor Tony Awards for their takes on a comic gem. The way the amiable Kelley plays the part, though, is more comic cubic zirconia. Ditto with most of the rest of the cast, the happy exceptions being the forceful yet funny Ken Clement as the henpecked and lecherous Senex, Mark A. Harmon as slick courtesan procurer Marcus Lycus, Shane R. Tanner as the oafishly self-adoring Miles Gloriosus, Ricky Dain Jones as the oft-hysterical Hysterium and Jack Livesey as sweet old Erronius.
In 2011, Forum remains reliably enjoyable. Its jokes, mistaken identities, plot twists and pretty girls evoke both Golden Age musical theater and the glory days of vaudeville... The new production, however, is B grade at best. The actors sing to a recorded score, fixing tempo and eliminating the give-and-take flow of live music...  And the Protean chorus? Though some of their gymnastic dance moves are impressive (thanks to choreographer Chrissi Ardito), they’re often silly or annoying, especially during their stints as eunuchs in the house of Marcus Lycus.
The folks in the crowd, it should be noted, seem perfectly content with what Kelley and company are giving them. But for accuracy’s sake, maybe this one should be billed Some Sporadically Amusing Things Happened on the Way to the Forum.
Rod Stafford Hagwood reviewed wrote jotted some stuff down for The Sun-Sentinel:
...the curious thing about this production... The more people onstage, the better it is. It's as if the cast has to reach a critical mass before their energies can bounce off of each other, before they hit a Vaudevillian groove, before the laughs come easily…naturally…without you helping them along.
And it must be said that the cast, for the most part, is a strong one, especially in song (a few solo singers managed to overpower the recorded orchestrations – by a few decibels it would seem). And that is a good thing, because Sondheim's score and the book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart is rip-roaring funny. But all those pun-rrific punch lines need a vocal prowess tempered by the timing of a nightclub comedian.
The Stage Door Theatre  production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum plays in its Coral Springs theater through October 9, then moves to The Byron Carlyle Theater in Miami Beach October 14 through November 13. (the move canceled September 25 due to poor sales at second location).

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