Although Nicholas Hytner's regime is less focused on the genre than was Trevor Nunn's (Hytner has vowed to concentrate on finding new musical theatre talent), the NT is gearing up for the first U.S. song-fest since Hytner took over. And Stephen Sondheim's A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum is to be packed with star names.
RSC regular Desmond Barrit – one of the English stage's most admired comic actors, though recently he's been taking on weightier roles, such as Shylock at the Chichester Festival - will play Pseudolus, the witty Roman slave played in the original stage show and in the film version by Zero Mostel. Also in the cast will be Hamish McColl, half of the comic duo The Right Size (who had a big London hit recently with their Morecambe and Wise tribute The Play What I Wrote, which also visited Broadway). Television satirist David Schneider and TV sitcom star Sam Kelly ("Porridge," "Allo Allo") will also join the line-up. Multi Olivier Award-winner Philip Quast, who won his last Olivier in the NT South Pacific will appear at the Olivier Theatre when the show opens on July 9.
Less famous but also in the cast is Jane Fowler, who was in the company's production of Love's Labours Lost, also in the Olivier.
And Sondheim himself will appear for a platform event on July 6 at 6 PM. Edward Hall will direct, with set designs by Julian Crouch and costume designs by Kevin Pollard. Paul Anderson designs the lighting, Rob Ashford (Thoroughly Modern Millie in New York and London) choreographs, and Paul Groothuis supplies the sound. Michael Starobin will supply the orchestrations, with Martin Lowe music supervisor and director.
The musical remains one of Sondheim's most popular and includes one of the composer's most enduring songs, "Comedy Tonight." It was successfully revived in New York in 1996, in a production starring Nathan Lane.