By Julia Leconte
Big sets, big musical numbers, big heart and big laughs — very big laughs. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is big in every respect and will have you grinning all the way back from the forum or rather, the theatre.
Performed by fourth-year Ryerson theatre students and based on a book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, Forum is set in Rome, and tells the tale of the slave, Pseudolus (played by Peter Katz) who tries to win freedom from his master, Hero (Ryan Tilley) by getting him the beautiful Philia (Chantal Elie) who is already promised to the great captain. Unfortunately, as in all great comedies, Pseudolus’ plan for freedom goes horribly awry, and hilarity ensues.
Even before the cast takes the stage with the opening number “Comedy Tonight,” the audience is struck by the set design. Glenn Davidson’s set is big, bright and effective. It consists of three houses backlit by a silhouette of the Roman skyline.
Fourth-year technical theatre student, and head of paints, Heather Meger has worked with a production crew of about 50 people on the Forum set since early January.
“It was a lot bigger than anything we’ve done before,” Meger said. “The designer’s vision was very skewed, it was supposed to be very cartoon like.”
The cartoonish background suits the outstanding comedic talent of the cast to a tee.
With few exceptions, every member of the 23 person cast seems to be born for his or her role. Out of nine major speaking roles, certain performances should be noted. Tilley’s portrayal of the 20-year-old Hero is spot on. His quirky mannerisms and innocent demeanour make the goofy character, prone to spouting out lines like, “Better a slave than a slave to love!” Charming.
Ryan Ward is a scene-stealer every time he appears as Miles Gloriosus, a character whose ego far surpasses his physical stature. Hits two musical numbers, “Bring me my Bride” and “Funeral” are two of the show’s best.
Last but certainly not least is Katz, whose constant energy holds the show together and clarifies every twist and turn in the plot for the audience.
If you’re looking for earth-shattering solo singers, then this isn’t the show for you. Forum’s strength lies in clever writing and catchy music. The cast members are good singers as opposed to great ones and their comedic timing is impeccable. Their ability to draw continuous outbursts of laughter from the audience is extraordinary.
Forum is playing at the Ryerson Theatre until February 19.