Review by Taylor Korolenchuk
A funny thing happened on the way to school, one day. I hopped on the bus; said hello to the bus driver, and plopped my rear-end on one of the front seats. Between then and the time I arrived at school, I was offered the chance to dip my toes into something new: performing arts reviews. A month later I walked into the foyer of the West Wing of Ancaster High School holding a pen and paper, but not on the way to my usual English class.
On the contrary, I was actually there to see Theatre Ancaster‘s performance of the musical “A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM”; the 1962 Tony Award winning musical by Sondheim, based on the Shevelove/Gelbart book.
“Forum” is a farce about a crafty slave named Pseudolus who attempts to achieve his freedom by aiding his shy master, Hero, in getting the girl of his dreams- the beautiful Philia; a courtesan in the neighbouring brothel. It seems like a simple task, buy the girl and live happily ever after. Fat chance, as every possible thing, from unfaithful fathers to cocky captains, has to get in between Hero and his love, as well as Pseudolus and his freedom.
Friday evening was the first time I’ve ever seen this particular play, and I was definitely not let down. Although there was the odd technical issue that appeared once or twice, there was barely anything wrong with the production. The acting was great, the projection was nearly spot-on and the singing….oh yes, the singing ability of the actors was awesome. I’ve never been to a musical that didn’t have at least one person who was sort of lacking in that department. In this production, everyone (even the more minor characters) had a dominant voice; therefore it isn’t very surprising that those people had a command in spoken parts as well. Any conversations between characters flowed very naturally. The body language and movement of the characters was great and there was plenty of exaggeration in certain scenes that cracked me up.
Of the lead characters, there’s one that really stands out above all: Jennifer Watson‘s portrayal of Philia, the girl that happens to be in the middle of the whole mess. Yet being the character that is constantly being hidden by the others; Ms. Watson’s talent is definitely not hidden at all. She takes that role and runs with it, her singing is extremely captivating and she has that Disney-esque voice, her acting capabilities are expressed extremely well, figuratively screaming “I am Philia and I am proud to be a dimwit!”. The best example of her talents is probably in Act II, Scene iii (“That’ll Show Him”), where she reveals a semi-intelligent side to the role, as well as it being her solo musical number.
Among the more minor roles, I really enjoyed Paul Kennedy‘s portrayal of Marcus Lycus. He reminded me of the classic game show hosts, with the charisma and ability to speak persuasively (which are qualities he shares with Greig Graham‘s portrayal of Pseudolus). The best example of this is how he introduces the ladies of his house to Hero and Pseudolus during Act I, Scene v (“The House of Marcus Lycus”). Also, a deserved shout-out to the three talented men who played the various roles of the Proteans. Although it seems as if their roles are very minor, I would like to think otherwise, that their roles are probably the most complicated. They are the comic relief and play many sub-roles throughout the production. There’s quite a bit of acrobatics and physical humour involved within some of the scenes. So kudos to you guys, great job!
Besides the acting, there’s a few other things that influenced the show. The band did a good job, although it seemed as if they were out of sync a bit with “Overture” at the beginning, but any inconsistencies were mostly resolved during the first act. The props and costumes were appropriate to the time-period and very appealing to the eye. The set included minimal props but they all looked really neat and held important functions. I can’t complain much about the venue, they did a great job in turning the foyer of a high school into the lobby of a theatre. The only thing I’ll complain about is the state of the washrooms. I would assume that the school custodians would’ve cleaned the washrooms near the auditorium prior to the performance, but when I ran into the girls’ room to do my business I saw toilet paper and garbage in places they don’t belong; as well as three-quarters of the toilets needing a good flushing. That, my friends, was the worst part of the night by far, heehee.
All the hard work put into the production by the various people involved has definitely paid off, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in seeing quality community theatre. Theatre Ancaster’s production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” is running at Ancaster High School’s Auditorium, West Wing (374 Jerseyville Rd. W) every Friday and Saturday at 8:00pm until Dec. 7th Call 905-304-SHOW