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Jokes fly (or not) on Walterdale stage

Many funny things happen and a few bomb in new production

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Saturday, Apr 05, 2014 06:00 am

LOCAL CONNECTION – St. Albert Children's Theatre regular Connor Meeker (white shirt) plays Hero while Kyle Thulien is Pseudolus in Walterdale Theatre’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
LOCAL CONNECTION – St. Albert Children's Theatre regular Connor Meeker (white shirt) plays Hero while Kyle Thulien is Pseudolus in Walterdale Theatre’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
DOUGLAS STEWART PHOTOGRAPHY/Supplied photo

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Review

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Running until Saturday, April 12
Walterdale Theatre
10322 – 83 Ave.

“Something familiar, something peculiar. Something appealing, something appalling. Old situations, new complications. Something convulsive, something repulsive. Something for everyone.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, are the opening lines that describe the sexual antics about to happen in the musical comedy A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, now playing at Walterdale Theatre until Saturday, April 12.

This musical spoof completely lacks any shred of deep thought. It is clearly designed to make the audience laugh loudly, heartily and frequently.

And I can guarantee there’s at least one gag in there for everyone. Writers Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart loaded the script with sexual hi-jinks and if you examine the bawdy jokes there’s almost every idiom that’s been invented.

There are fart and phallic wisecracks. Some are groan-worthy puns. Others are corny Vaudeville-type jokes that are as old as the hills. Then there is word play and classic farce competing against pop culture references.

There is no fourth wall and actors continually break from their characters with pointed asides. There are pratfalls and borderline offensive jokes, including a couple of fake baby tosses and a stream of female putdowns. The list goes on.

Director Adam Mazerolle-Kuss keeps the jokes flying at a machine-gun pace. Some hit their mark. Others veer widely. Yet on Wednesday’s opening night, a staggering number of setups were deployed with success, judging by the waves of laughter.

Design-wise, it’s a huge show on a tiny crescent-shaped stage. Set designer John Madill has effectively created three Roman houses surrounding a courtyard where all the action is played out.

Pseudolus – a crafty, conniving slave – barters with his master Hero for freedom. Along the way he is both helped and impeded by fellow house slave Hysterium and distracted by a flock of concubines living in the brothel next door run by the oily Marcus Lycus.

Hero, the son of the wealthy Senex, has fallen in love with the vacuous Philia, a slave sold to Capt. Miles Gloriosus. Once the young Roman youth enlists Pseudolus and his bag of tricks in exchange for freedom, the game is on.

As Pseudolus, Kyle Thulien delivers a sly, manic energy while Kelsey Visscher’s Hysterium is delightful as the high-strung conspirator.

Jordan Ward’s Senex is resplendent as the henpecked, horny old goat delivering plenty of sexual innuendo in the Stephen Sondheim ditty Everybody Ought to Have a Maid.

Sarah Ormandy’s Philia is a sweet, naïve airhead. Yet it’s impossible to be put off by her dim-witted character. She’s just too adorable.

Ormandy’s Philia is perfectly balanced by Connor Meeker’s Hero, a rather insipid character more guided by his manhood than the head above his neck. However, these two vapid characters are a refreshing contrast to the non-stop scheming surrounding them.

But it’s Mark LaBelle’s Capt. Gloriosus who steals the show. The black-bearded, barrel-chested Roman warrior blasts on stage demanding Philia, his paid-for concubine.

Standing well-over six-feet tall, head and shoulders above the rest of the cast, LaBelle wields a sword and quite physically dominates the stage. His stage presence is so commanding, you can’t rip your eyes off him.

There are too many caricaturist elements, such as rubber chickens, to list. However, there is a dedicated seven-piece live band under the watch of Brian Christensen that puts their hearts into the complex score.

Spring is the time to try new things, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is a sendup packed with chuckles, sniggers and double-up laughs.


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