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A FUNNY THING IS HAPPENING
in Foothill College at the  Smithwick Theatre

By Iride Aparicio

Photos credit: David Allen Members of the cast singing “Everybody ought to have a maid
     Members of the cast singing “Everybody ought to have a maid”

LOS ALTOS HILLS, CA –  Everything is funny about "A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM" the musical with music and lyrics by STEPHEN SONDHEIM and book by BURT SHEVELOVE & LARRY GELBART.  Its characters: Pseudolus and Miles Gloriousus were inspired by the characters in the farces written by the Roman playwright Plautus (251-l83 BC). Being an Italian, not a Greek comedy, there are no mythological gods in its plot, which is a combination of the classical elements of farce, which include puns, mistaken identities, cross-dressing of characters and satirical comments on social classes.

Its music is lively, light and joyful in sound. The lyrics, humorous. And even the show’s title:
 “A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM” makes us laugh, because it derives from the “famous line” used by vaudeville's comedians to start their monologues: “A funny thing happened on the way to the theatre”) so, when we hear it, we expect to have fun. And we can say, by the way they were laughing, that every person sitting in the comfortable chairs of the SMITHWICK THEATRE, in Foot Hill college watching the show, on July 25th night performance, was having a wonderful time. We started laughing from the moment that Pseudolous (DOUG SANTANA), appeared on the stage, wearing a Roman toga, singing “Comedy Tonight” in which he tells us that we are about to see "something peculiar, something appealing and something appalling", and we did not stop laughing until the end of the comedy.

On Saturday Night, Musical Director KATIE COLEMAN needed better tuning on  the trumpets in the show's overture, but after that the music went on masterfully for the rest of the night. Here we can add that the show’s casting was wonderful and that Co Director, MILISSA CAREY, got professional acting from every member of her cast.

JESSICA WHITTEMORE as Philia, needs absolutely  nothing more than her loveliness  to seduce the hero (ANTHONY STEPHENS.)
JESSICA WHITTEMORE as Philia, needs absolutely  nothing more than her loveliness  to seduce the hero (ANTHONY STEPHENS.)

Set in Rome during the Roman Empire, (the first Century A.D) The story takes place in a Roman street with three houses: the one to our right, is the house of Erronius (A latin word meaning wrong) an old man who for years has been searching for his children (a girl and a boy) that were stolen from him by pirates, when they were infants. The house in the center of the stage belongs to Senex (a word that means senile) a Roman Senator, his wife Domina ( a latin word meaning dominant) and his son Heroe (which is the heroe in the story).  The action of the comedy, however is centered on the family’s slave, Pseudolus, who wanting to become free, promises Hero (the Senator’s virgin son) to get Philia for him in exchange from his freedom. Philia, however, lives in the Courtesans' house of Marcus Lycus, (RAY D’AMBROSIO) who lives in the third house, but unlike all the others “ladies of Pleasure” as the courtesans are called, Philia is a virgin, who had just arrived to the house, from Greece. So when Senex and his wife leave on a trip to visit Domina’s mother, leaving their son Hero in Pseudolus and Hysterium (another slave) care, Pseudolus goes to work in trying to buy Philia for his master, just to discover that  the girl has already been sold to Captain Miles Gloriosus, (SCOTTY SHOEMAKER) from the Roman Army and that the Captain is coming any moment to pick her up.

Senex (TODD WRIGHT, Domina (JENIFER TICE) and  Hysterium MEADOWS as they prepare to leave their son in the slaves care.
Senex (TODD WRIGHT) Domina (JENIFER TICE) and  Hysterium (MEADOWS) as they prepare to leave their son in the slaves' care.

And it is when Senex and Domina leave, when the  fun starts when Pseudolus, who wants his freedom at all costs, makes the most atrocious lies to both both Marcus (D’AMBROSIO) and Miles (SHOEMAKER) even having Philia dead from the plague.

As Pseudolus, SANTANA was very funny. He represented his character well and even when the lines he was sayingwere funny, his acting, was very natural.  Senex also acted his role convincingly specially in the second act as she waits for the beautiful slave who told him that she was his. Domina (TICE) who has a beautiful tone of voice used well when singing her songs on that night, while WHITTEMORE as Philia, looked lovely, had a lovely voice and her interpretation of “Lovely” was convincing. With that voice and that face it reallybecomes unimportant that she cannot add numbers or memorize anything. Miles, in his role as Gloriosus (SHOEMAKER) exaggerated his acting, at times. 

The Courtesans: Tintintabula, (VANESSA ALVAREZ, played her role of dominatrix convincingly, the others: Panacea EVELYN CHAN, GEMINAE (CAMI JACKSON) Gymnasia (SRA GRACE KELLY) and Vibrata KAY THORNTON  executed well their dancing steps but in her acting as "courtesans,"  all  needed more sensuality.

But as a whole, the show was great fun, and since “A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM” is a comedy, it had a happy ending. Pseudolus becomes free, the missing children or Erronius are found, Hero gets a bride, Miles Gloriosus gets two, instead of one, and we, the audience, got a wonderful evening laughing.

 Pseudolus (SANTANA) left observes the parade  courtesans
  Pseudolus (SANTANA) left observes the parade  courtesans
 and Miles (SHOEMAKER) dressed in Roman Soldier Uniform.

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM will play at the Smithwick Theatre in Foothill College I20 at El Monte Rd. in Los Altos Hills until August 9th. For tickets call (650) 949-7360 of go online to Footillmusicals.com