AISLE SAY San Francisco


Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart
Directed by Milissa Carey and Michael Ryken
Presented by Foothill Music Theatre
Smithwick Theatre
Foothill College, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills, CA / (650) 949-7360

Reviewed by Judy Richter

The 1962 Broadway hit "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" was the first musical for which Stephen Sondheim wrote both the music and lyrics. Much of his unique style can be heard as Foothill Music Theatre presents this show, based on farces by an ancient Roman, Plautus (254-184 B.C.).

Because it's a farce and because it has Sondheim's music and lyrics, it's a challenge both dramatically and musically. Thanks to canny direction by Milissa Carey and Michael Ryken, who also choreographed the show, the comedic aspects work well.

Some of the singing isn't quite as successful, but musical director Katie Coleman has made sure that excellent diction makes all of the intricate lyrics are clear.

The show opens with a great introductory song, "Comedy Tonight," featuring the central character, Pseudolus (Doug Santana), a Roman slave around 200 B.C. Pseudolus desires his freedom, but in order to secure it, he must help his master, Hero (Anthony Stephens), win over the beautiful new woman whom he has seen on the balcony of neighbor Marcus Lycus (Ray D'Ambrosio).

However, the woman, Philia (Jessica Whittemore), has already been sold to a blustering general, Miles Gloriosus (Scotty Shoemaker), who's soon due in Rome.

Other subplots arise in the book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, several of them due to mistaken identities. All of these complications require Pseudolus to think quickly, which he does.

Santana does an excellent job with this balancing act. Others who contribute to the fun are Todd Wright as Senex, Hero's would-be philandering father; Jenifer Tice as his mother, Domina; and Mike Meadors as Hysterium, one of their slaves.

Then there are the courtesans, who have the most challenging of Ryken's choreography. They are Vanessa Alvarez as Tintintabula, Evelyn Chan as Panacea, Sarah Hammer and Cami Jackson as the Geminae and Sara-Grace Kelly as Gymnasia.

Many of Pseudolus's antics are witnessed by the Proteans: Jason Engelman, Marc Gonzalez and Kevin Reid.

The set is by Kuo-Hao Lo, the lighting by Michael Ramsaur, the outstanding costumes by Robert Horek and sound by Andrew Heller.

Running about two hours with one intermission, it's an enjoyable show.

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