Review “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (Porchlight Music Theatre): Exuberant!

PMT_FunnyThing_Prod5Porchlight Music Theatre presents  A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.

Exuberant was the first word to spring into my mind at the end of FORUM.  With the boards still awash with blood from Sweeney Todd’s victims and the aisles still haunted by the past and present ghosts of Sondheim on Sondheim, Porchlight has come out frolicking in their latest offering.  Although the singing is still their rich harmonious style, the farce illustrates Porchlight’s goofy side.  In FORUM,  Porchlight brushes off and busts out its vaudeville chops. 

The show kicks off with Bill Larkin (Prologus) singing the peppy Sondheim tune “Comedy Tonight.”  He acts as the narrator giving us the skinny on the neighborhood.  Three buildings house the brothel, the unhappy married couple and the crazy old guy who lost his babies to pirates.  The main storyline has the couple’s son, the earnest Miles Blim (Hero), falling in love with the virgin whore, the lovely Sarah Lynn Robinson (Philia).  Larkin hilariously coerces Blim into a freedom deal.  If Larkin can get Blim and Robinson together, Blim will release Larkin from slavery.  Sounds easy? Young love never is.  And liberation is often harder.  Larkin, Blim, and Robinson are several guffaws away from their happy endings. 

Director Michael Weber paces and casts this show perfectly.  The time flies by because the  superb ensemble is having so much fun.  They excel at staged game-playing.  In the lead, Larkin does an amazing and tireless job wrangling this madcap comedy.  He’s-gotta-a- Mel-Brooks quality as he works every angle scamming his way to freedom.  His crackerjack sidekicks; Jason Grimm, Andrew Lund, Jaymes Osborne do anything and everything to get a laugh.  There is plenty of crossdressing, chase scenes, and mistaken identities as the buffoonery rolls on.  The showstopper scene for me is the courtesan fashion show presented by the animated Lorenzo Rush Jr.  Britt-Marie Siversten, Erica Evans, Ariana Cappuccitti, and Neala Barron powerfully strut their stuff on stage. Their va-va-voom allure captivates with their own individuality.  And bravo to Matt Crowle (Hysterium) who confidently dons a wig despite the competition.            

Scenic Designer Megan Truscott makes this Roman neighborhood easily accessible for comedic entrances and exits.  It feels a lot like the bouncy and bawdy 1960s Laugh-In show.  The title even sounds like the beginning of a comedy shtick.  A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM… And a funny thing did happen to me at the FORUM, I was tickled by the light-hearted romp on a Friday night.  The perfect way to go into a weekend is laughing over a light-frothy, bubbly refreshment.  Porchlight will return to tragedy tomorrow (or really next fall).  But for now, they are just having a good time.  Certainly, there is “something for everyone. A comedy tonight!”  The zany antics had the gal next to me laughing so hard my seat was shaking. 

Running Time:  Two hours includes an intermission

At Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont

Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart

Directed by Michael Weber

Music direction by Linda Madonia

Thursdays at 7:30pm (no performance on May 21st

Fridays at 8pm

Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm

Sundays at 2pm

Thru May 24th

Buy Tickets at www.porchlightmusictheatre.org

Production photo by Anthony LaPenna

For more reviews and information on Chicago theatre, visit Theatre in Chicago.

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