A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum opens to sold-out crowds

The Ladysmith Little Theatre’s first-ever musical received a standing ovation from a sold-out audience during opening night.

The cast of Ladysmith Little Theatre’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum received a standing ovation each night on opening weekend.

The cast of Ladysmith Little Theatre’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum received a standing ovation each night on opening weekend.

The Ladysmith Little Theatre’s first-ever musical received a standing ovation from a sold-out audience during opening night.

The theatre’s production of the musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum opened March 22, and every show was sold out. The cast received a standing ovation each night of opening weekend — and this is the first time director Alan Watt has seen that for opening weekend.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is the first musical Ladysmith Little Theatre has ever done.

“For the theatre, it was three times more expensive than anything it had done before,” said Watt. “The challenge is that it’s also three times more difficult to put on, as I well know now.”

A musical is a huge challenge for the performers, and it is challenging to cast, explained Watt.

Watt started casting in August and finished in December. The cast of 18 began rehearsals in late January.

“It’s very tight timing,” said Watt. “For a regular show, you need two to three months’ rehearsal, minimum. For a musical, three months is a very tight timeline.”

The cast has been rehearsing three times a week for three hours, and they threw in additional rehearsals as the production neared. Cast members have worked with a music director, choreographer and acting coach.

“A lot of directing is casting, just like managing is hiring the right people,” said Watt. “I’m quite pleased I was able to cast it very well. We’ve got wonderful performers. We’ve got some real newbies, but they’ve done really well …. I would challenge people to see who the newbies are on stage.”

It is all 100 per cent volunteer.

“(The actors) all have day jobs or they are retired professionals, and they’re just doing this for the love of it,” said Watt. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it”

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is a musical comedy written from 1959 to 1962.

“When they wrote it, they were really playing homage to Plautus,” said Watt. “He was the father of theatrical device, especially in comedy.

“They even took some of the jokes from that time and put them into this play. When you hear a joke, it’s quite possible it was written 2,000 years ago, and it’s still funny today.”

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, written by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart and featuring music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, takes comedy back to its roots, combining situations from the time-tested, 2,000-year-old comedies of Roman playwright Plautus with the infectious energy of classic vaudeville.

The result is a non-stop laugh-fest in which a crafty and quick-witted Roman slave, Pseudolus, struggles to win his freedom by agreeing to win the hand of a beautiful but slow-witted courtesan, Philia, for his young master, Hero.

The musical is considered Broadway’s greatest farce, and it  is called “light, fast-paced, witty, irreverent and one of the funniest musicals ever written — the perfect escape from life’s troubles.”

Watt feels that A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is a musical that appeals to all audiences.

“The music is meant to be part of the story,” he said. “I think there are not many points in the  play where people are going to be bored. There’s always something going on. We have such a variety of characters.”

Watt is very impressed with the set design and costumes.

“It’s one of the best sets I’ve ever seen, and not just because it’s my own show,” he said. “The guy who built it says it’s the best thing he’s ever done, same with the set painter.”

Audiences will notice something different about the Ladysmith Little Theatre as well, as the auditorium and lobby have been given a complete makeover.

“I think it has a much more theatre feel to it,” said Watt. “It’s a whole experience, and that’s what theatre is all about; it’s something you can’t get on TV or at the movies.”

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum runs until April 15. Visit Ladysmith Little Theatre’s website or call 250-924-0658 for show times and ticket prices.