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Review for A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum at The Queens Theatre, Hornchurch


A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To The Forum – Queens Theatre Hornchurch

Friday 1st October 2010.


The musical offering from the team of Actor-Musicians in the Cut To The Chase Theatre Company at The Queens Theatre, Hornchurch this season is Stephen Sondheim’s A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum – a comedy set in Ancient Rome.  It first appeared on Broadway in 1962. It was last performed at the Queen’s 12 years ago shortly after Artistic Director Bob Carlton took over the reigns.  He has decided to bring it back for their loyal base of theatre-goers in 2010 which also marks the composers 80th Birthday celebrations.


Is it still as fresh as it once was?  The answer is a resounding yes.  This production works uniquely well for two reasons.  The narrative of the piece is incredibly strong with songs that are equally clever and well integrated driving the plot forward even at the peak of the farce in Act Two.  Recently at the prom dedicated to him, Sondheim said his success was always down to a good book and he certainly had that with this one, working with Larry Gelbart (writer for the TV series MASH) and Burt Shevelove.  But it’s the extremely tight ensemble nature of the Cut To The Chase Company that really makes this production exciting and new. 


The challenge of performing in a Sondheim musical is a difficult one for most performers, but for actor musicians it must be even more so.  I remember seeing the Watermill production of Sweeney Todd featuring actor musicians and found it staggering.  Although, that had a through composed score and A Funny Thing doesn’t what I liked here was the opportunities they seized in making it unique to the production.  There were two numbers in particular where the arrangements and style added a touch of genius and intimacy.  They were ‘Everybody Ought To Have A Maid’ and ‘Impossible’.  I have to mention Tom Jude, Steve Simmonds and Joe West who epitemise what the company is all about playing a variety of roles but stealing the scene during Impossible as the street entertainers on banjolele, voilin and double bass.  Hats off to Julian Littman who was not only Musical Director for this production, but also played the lead role of Pseudolus which he carried off effortlessly.  There were some amazing voices in this production too particularly from Oliver Seymour-Smith and Natasha Moore as Hero and Philia.


The dialogue in this show is vitally important and it was nice to see some modern references in particular the reference to the coalition spending review.  There were some really interesting character choices too.  Matthew Quinn was a great comic support as Hysterium with great vocals and physicality as well. There are really great performances from Stuart Organ and James Earl Adair’s cameos as Erronius were just a gem from this truly experienced and versatile actor.   Although this is a show that is heavily weighted with male roles because of the nature of this production the women are truly versatile and bring the production to life.


It does seem wrong really to mention individuals as it is such a great opportunity to see an ensemble production that really works. So incase you are still making your mind up about whether to go and see it or not, well... it has something for everyone...a comedy tonight!


Roz Ure – Stage Door Presenter on Phoenix 98FM.


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