All-Male Forum, With Chris Fitzgerald, Greg Hildreth, Brooks Ashmanskas, Billy Porter, Sings in NYC Feb. 13
By Kenneth Jones
Supporters of Roundabout Theatre Company will witness a starry presentation of director Jessica Stone's all-male production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, the musical farce by Stephen Sondheim, Larry Gelbart and Burt Shevelove, Feb. 13 in Manhattan.
The staged reading directed by Stone — who created the role of Erma ("Buddie Beware") in Roundabout's current hit Anything Goes — reunites many of the members of Stone's 2010 Williamstown Theatre Festival revival of the musical comedy. Christopher Fitzgerald, a Tony Award nominee for Finian's Rainbow and Young Frankenstein, again plays Roman slave Pseudolus, who sings "Comedy Tonight" (and a number of other comic numbers) as he seeks emancipation in the burlesque-heavy show inspired by ancient dramatist Plautus.
New to the WTF-originated cast are Greg Hildreth (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) as Hysterium, Tony nominee Brooks Ashmanskas (The Ritz, Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me) as Senex/Vibrata, Billy Porter (Miss Saigon) as Domina/Panacea and Andrew Cao (Anything Goes) as a Protean/Tintinabula, with returnees JP Walker (shifting to replace the preoccupied Kevin Cahoon) as Erronious/Geminae, David Turner (Arcadia, On a Clear Day…) as Philia, Bryce Pinkham (Ghost the Musical, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) as Hero, David Costabile (Caroline, Or Change) as Marcus Lycus, Graham Rowat (LoveMusik, Guys and Dolls, Dracula) as Miles Gloriosus, Paul Castree (9 to 5, Young Frankenstein) as Protean/Geminae, Joe Aaron Reid (Catch Me If You Can, Finian's Rainbow) as Protean/Gymnasia, Adam Lerman as Protean/Soldier and Zach Grady as Protean/Soldier.
Gary Adler (Avenue Q, Chita Rivera: A Dancer's Life) is the reading's musical director. Roundabout's artistic staff saw Stone's production at Williamstown Theatre Festival and wanted to present her all-male concept to the Friends of Roundabout in this reading setting. This does not necessarily indicate that Roundabout will revive the classic for a full production, but it does mean the show is on RTC's radar.
Roundabout also has a long relationship with Stephen Sondheim having produced five Tony Award-nominated Sondheim titles, including Company (1995), Follies (2001) and the Tony Award- winning Assassins (2004), Pacific Overtures (2004) and Sunday in the Park with George (2008).
Roundabout produces four Friends of Roundabout readings a year. These are private, invitation-only events hosted by Roundabout's Development Department and the invitation comes as a benefit of donating to the not-for-profit at a certain level.
In the Williamstown, MA, production, director Stone (with permission) replaced composer-lyricist Sondheim's "That'll Show Him" with the cut/alternate "Echo Song," a number for courtesan Philia.
The 1962 Broadway musical is billed this way in the Playbill Vault: "Ancient Roman slave Pseudolus schemes to win his freedom by helping his young master Hero win the beautiful courtesan Philia, who is betrothed to the egotistical soldier Miles Gloriosus, in this musical farce based on the plays of Plautus."
Zero Mostel and Jack Gilford created the roles of Pseudolus and Hsyterium, respectively.
The show won the 1963 Tony Award as Best Musical, with additional Tonys going to Mostel, book writers Gelbart & Shevelove, director George Abbott, producer Harold Prince and actor David Burns (as Senex). There have been two Broadway revivals — in 1972 and 1996.
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