Review: CUTC has silly fun in 'Forum'

By Audrey Wells

You can't go too wrong with Stephen Sondheim's buoyant musical " A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" — and the Champaign Urbana Theatre Company doesn't.

Boasting a cast of 18, a 13-piece orchestra and more than 150 volunteers, the CUTC's latest production — which ends today at the Parkland College Theatre — certainly includes many in our community.

The togetherness is evident in the fun had on stage. It is possible to talk seriously about the musical based, as it is, on the comedies of the ancient Roman playwright Plautus, but seriously, that would be missing the joy of this farcical romp.

Director Matt Fear, describes the show as "nonstop silly." Sit back and relax, he writes in the program. A level of casualness is built into the bawdy script. Any pretense is dropped from the start when the narrator and lead character introduces the play to the audience.

The book, by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart (of "M*A*S*H" fame) is full of wordplay and gags. Sondheim's upbeat music and lyrics carry the audience out the door singing when the show ends.

Sure, opening night jitters might have caused a few dropped lines and timing to be off a tad in places, but that did not get in the way of a good time and generally very good performances.

John Tilford, lovable in the lead role of Pseuodolus, plays a slave trying to win his freedom by curing the lovesickness of his young master. His playfulness and physicality came to the fore in scenes with the nervous Hysterium, played delightfully by Craig Krukewitt.

Jeff McGill, in the role of Senex, a lofty patrician easily cowed by his wife Domina, had wonderful delivery and timing. Katie Johnson as Domina assumes her comic role well, too.

The Proteans, including Derraun Barbee, Meaguell Gaines and Nico Perez-Jandrich, were great with their acrobatic moves, liveliness — and quick costume changes.

All the actors seemed to enjoy their roles. The courtesans camped it up. The show had charm.

The costumes, designed by Heather Ann Layman, and set, designed by Joe Murphy and Dorothy Debolt, were colorful and practical, but greatfully not ornate, in keeping with the light-heartedness of the production. Ashley Giberson Marshall's choreography was creative yet manageable. The orchestra, directed and conducted by Matthew Sheppard, carried the actors nicely through spritely romps, jazzy dance numbers and funny songs.

How wonderful for a community theater group to join together and get silly. Plautus would be proud.

If you go

What: Champaign Urbana Theatre Company presents the musical farce "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart; directed by Matt Fear

When: 7:30 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Parkland Theatre, 2400 W. Bradley Ave., C

Tickets: $16 for adults; $12 for senior citizens and students; $8 for children

Information: 344-3884; http://www.cutc.org

Audrey Wells is a freelance writer from Urbana.

Topics (1):Theater

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