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Comedy, the old fashioned Roman way

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Apr 02, 2014 06:00 am

ROMAN COMEDY – A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is comedy set in ancient Rome. The actors pictured are Kelsey Visscher as Hysteria, Jordan Ward as Senex and St. Albert Children Theatre's Connor Meeker as Hero (dressed in white toga).
ROMAN COMEDY – A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is comedy set in ancient Rome. The actors pictured are Kelsey Visscher as Hysteria, Jordan Ward as Senex and St. Albert Children Theatre's Connor Meeker as Hero (dressed in white toga).
DOUGLAS STEWART PHOTOGRAPHY/Supplied photo

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Preview

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
April 2 to 12 at 8 p.m. with Sunday matinee at 2 p.m.
Walterdale Theatre
10322 – 83 Ave.
Tickets: $14 to $20 Call 780-420-1757 or purchase online at tixonthesquare.ca

Back in the days of vaudeville, comedians used to open their show with a familiar line – “A funny thing happened on the way to the theatre …”

The brilliant writers Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart spoofed this infamous line and reworked it in their award winning musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum opening tonight at Walterdale Theatre for a 10-day run.

Inspired by classic Roman farces, in particular Plautus (251-183 BC), Shevelove and Gelbart used this form to poke fun at social classes.

In this bawdy musical, the slave Pseudolus looks to win his freedom by helping his young master, Hero, win the love of his life Philia. She is a virgin in the house of Marcus Lycus, a buyer and seller of beautiful women.

But the moment the wheels are set in motion for victory, the romantic cart starts to fall apart. As the plot gets underway, disguises, mistaken identity and incorrectly overheard conversations are only a few of the farcical elements that threaten to turn the love story into a train wreck.

Adam Mazerolle-Kuss, Walterdale’s artistic director, had performed in this production in 2001 as a student in the MacEwan College musical theatre program under Tim Ryan.

“I had learned the piece as an actor and I wanted to look at it from the other side and share it with the audience,” says Mazerolle-Kuss.

To his knowledge, it’s been 13 years since the production was performed in Edmonton.

“In the meantime, we’ve had this whole new wave of musical theatre – Rent, Wicked, Drowsy Chaperone. We’re beyond musicals like On the Town or Oklahoma. Theatre used to have flashy musicals. There was Miss Saigon with a helicopter. But we don’t need to see a helicopter landing to enjoy a musical. The set for this is just three houses and bench. You draw on the writing, the music, the comedy.”

For Mazerolle-Kuss, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is about delivering a smart, fast and funny production.

“The writing is fantastic. The timing is so good. The writing is so well done that it’s not dated. The writing uses Abbott and Costello, the Keystone Cops – all the classic comedy elements and all the styles are considered a staple.”

Although community theatre tends to draw a wide range of talents, skills and experience, he is pumped about the 18-actor cast.

“The dialogue sets the play up and our actors pick it up and put everything they’ve got into it. They take the material and use it as a springboard forward. It’s so interesting to watch so many layers playing out.”

As director, he brought St. Albert actor David Johnson on board as an assistant. Two additional local thespians are carrying central roles. Sarah Ormandy, also a grad from MacEwan’s musical theatre program, is cast as Philia while Connor Meeker of St. Albert Children’s Theatre plays Hero.

During auditions for Philia, Mazerolle-Kuss was searching for an actress that conveyed innocence and openness.

“Philia is vapid, vacant and beautiful, the kind of young girl Sarah expresses so well on stage. She was so deadpan and honestly a simpleton.”

As for the lanky six-foot one Meeker, Mazerolle-Kuss describes him as a beanpole.

“Hero is the other half of the vapid duo. That’s why they fall in love. Connor has a natural innocence and he has an adorable, clean voice.”

The one role that carries the heaviest burden is Pseudolus, the slave played on Broadway by Zero Mostel, Nathan Lane and Whoopi Goldberg.

“What’s so unbelievable is how he (Pseudolus) can remember what he’s told everyone. He’s pulling all the puppet strings. He’s the lowest man on the totem pole and he’s in control of everything.”

Mazerolle-Kuss has one mantra when promoting the show.

“It has something that’s gaudy, something that’s bawdy and something for every body. This is a great piece of theatre that is truly golden. Just sit down, open your mind to it and enjoy.”


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