Barely in recovery from the last astonishing show, “Rock of Ages,” Timber Lake Playhouse opened fourth show “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” Thursday evening. The musical comedy is based on the plays of Plautus.
We turn our attention to the Ancients, but it hardly matters because the Romans apparently had slamming doors and mistaken identities; all the ingredients of a ridiculous farce. First the book by authors Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, then music and lyrics were brilliantly designed by Stephen Sondheim.
Line by line, song by song, the script delivers one laugh after the next. While you laugh at one line, you may risk missing the next. Often called the funniest show ever written, it is more than jam-packed with a polyester superciliousness pitted against sappy prose out of the mouths of goofiness on All uttered by characters at odds with their own names.
One thing for sure about the TLP company this season is that the wide range of shows has showcased tremendous versatility within the cast. Chandler Smith, for instance, was raucous and bawdy as Lonny in “Rock of Ages.” Give him a haircut and put him in a white toga and he turns into sweet-faced Hero, smitten and over-refined. Kieran McCabe also was ego-infested rock star mincing through hip gyrations in last show. His transformation into Ancient Senex is wonderful as a soft-hearted sap, especially in duet “Impossible” with Hero.
Elya Bottiger has been lewd and flirty in other shows, now turns into Philia, a less than bright object of affections. Her speaking voice squeaks extreme helplessness, but her singing voice proves otherwise in “Lovely” with Hero and “That’ll Show Him” in Act II. Alec Irion as Marcus Lycus easily makes his presence known from show to show, whether lewd or pseudo-refined.
Guest Chicago actor Tommy Bullington returns to TLP as Pseudolus and carries the show through the ups and downs of ridiculousness throughout. He can best be remembered as Edna Turnblad in last season’s “Hairspray.”
Consummate character actor Cody Jolly, often dubbed TLP favorite, proves once again that he can command attention whatever he does, or doesn’t do, on stage. As bumbling Erronius, he brings the chaotic tempo from whisks and whooshes to practically nothing, and draws in laughs galore while at a snail’s pace.
Tyler Klingbiel as Hysterium performs an outstanding rendition of “I’m Calm,” one of many oxymoronic moments in the show. Well-worth noting is the strength and power of Ken Singleton as Miles Gloriosus in “Bring Me My Bride” and Halli Morgan as Domina with her sometimes edgy and sometimes glorious soprano voice in “That Dirty Old Man.”
Ken Singleton as Miles Gloriousus delivers a powerful voice and presence in every show. Shayla Brielle as Gymnasia and Genia Head as Vibrata have run the gamut of versatility this season as the ‘Delany sisters’ First 100 years,’ then rocked colorfully in “Rock of Ages,” then this show where they fit nicely into laughable roles. Olivia Kaufmann as Tintinabula is again recognizable as former Gypsy Rose Lee and the Geminae twins by Annelise Griswold and Caroline Kasay, giggly and ridiculous fresh from deeper roles in other shows. Three protean hilarious entrances and exits by Matthew Salvatore, Luke Stewart and Levi Skoog round out the goofiness.
This show is directed and choreographed by Zachary Gray whose previous work at TLP is very current in the energy and successes of previous shows “Peter Pan,” as well as choreographing “Hairspray” and “Gypsy.”
Set design of pillars and stone by Tucker Topel reaches beyond the wings as if viewed through a wide-angle lens. Cindy Blanc directs the show’s music, this time out of sight but not out of mind after her onstage character in “Rock of Ages.”
Hilarious, “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum,” continues through Saturday July 23 including three 2 p.m. matinees. Evening shows at 7:30 p.m. (No show Monday July 18th.) The boonies theatre is a hop, skip and a jump to 8215 Black Oak Road, Mount Carroll. Call the box office at (815) 244-2035 or boxoffice@timberlakeplayhouse.org for tickets, group rates and more information. Don’t miss the cash bar before and during the show!