There’s comedy this weekend. Stephen Sondheim’s 1962 Broadway smash “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” plays at Johnstown High School this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Sondheim’s score – filled with exquisite ballads (“Love, I Hear”), cunning commentaries (“Everybody Ought to Have a Maid”), and a perfect opening number (“Comedy Tonight”) is balance by its vaudeville style and witty buffoonery.
The plot is as old as the seven hills of Rome: Scheming slave Pseudolus wants his freedom in return for uniting his master’s son, Hero, with his true love, Philia. However, this being a farce, there are a lot of complications, including a house of ill repute, a Roman soldier who has been promised Philia as his bride, Hero’s parents (who won’t stay out of town as expected), a next-door neighbor (who also won’t stay out of town as expected), and Hysterium, a slave who attempts to solve all of these problems, only ending up at the center of chaos.
Hunter Hill plays the wily Pseudolus, the mischievous trickster who will stop at nothing to make his dream of freedom a reality in “Free.” With his dynamic voice and wacky antics, Hill leads this strong cast in a series of farcical schemes and comic exploits.
The secondary characters delight and amaze. Jeff Salatel brings to life the befuddled Senex with aplomb in “Impossible,” juxtaposed with Katie Ammann as his shrewish wife Domina, who delights with “That Dirty Old Man.” Cameron Polidore and Rachel Lee as the young lovers Hero and Philia, are splendid in “Lovely.” Polidore exudes naivety with a quirky enthusiasm, while Lee delivers a plucky, but absent-minded portrayal. Jacob Frenyea dons a proper “pillar of virtue” persona as Hysterium, the head house slave. His worrisome tendencies are exposed in the hysterical “I’m Calm.”
And the show allows a bunch of scene-stealing supporting players to get time in the spotlight, including Zack Hayes as the gullible and senile neighbor Erronius, Conner Edel as the self-indulgent swaggering captain Miles Gloriosus, Jordyn Stoutner as Marcus Lycus, the greedy, yet cowardly courtesan merchant, and Julia Airey, Anna Crouse and Alex Shepherd as the ever useful Proteans.
The ensemble consists of the alluring courtesans: Emily Barker, Madison Collins, Gina Franko, Emily Long, Hannah Kosiba and Bella Collar, with Anastasija Morse and Isabella Dittmer as Eunuchs.
The production is directed by Michael S Burnett; music direction – Cynthia Fiorenza; choreography – Wood and Emily Barker; costume coordinator – Darlene D’Onofrio; costume designer – Diane Dillenbeck; costume assistant – Pam Baran; tickets- Linda Panthen; and set design and technical director – Burnett.
Stage Crew members are: Maddie Willett (Sound), Cece Radalin (Stage Manager), Emily Wheelis (Lighting), Jillian Martelle and Grace Osborne (Follow spots), Katie Diener (Curtain), Alexx Fountain and Emily Dingman (Stage Assistants).
Band members include: Alison Wallace – piano, Lillian Nevins – flute, August D’Amore – percussion, Morgan Hotaling – trumpet, Emily Gelman – tenor sax, Cece D’Amore – trombone, Ava Trimarchi – clarinet, Michael Bevington – bass.
Tickets are available at the door, $12 adults and $8 students.