“Yes, go grab the rubber chicken!”
That call for a prop during Tuesday night’s publicity photo shoot should give people unfamiliar with “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” a pretty good sense of just how entertaining the musical will be when Civic Theatre opens its production this weekend.
It’s a show filled with appropriately outrageous costumes, characters and naughty humor that remains family friendly.
“There is bawdiness,” says director and choreographer Leslie Beauchamp. “But it’s nothing you wouldn’t have seen on television in the 1950s.”
That bawdy vibe is what the show’s creators were going for as they embraced the slapstick and silliness of sketch comedy of the 1950s, she says. With a book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, “Forum” takes the stock characters found in classical theater and sends them up. Music and lyrics are by Stephen Sondheim.
Set in ancient Rome, the musical centers on the members of three houses led by Senex (Christopher J. Murphy), Marcus Lycus (Gary Lanier) and Erronius (Larry True). At the center of the story is the slave Pseudolus (Brad Beauchamp) who looks to earn his freedom by helping Senex’s son, Hero (Michael Bartkiewicz), win the affections of virgin courtesan Philia (Darby Le Clear) of the House of Lycus.
Not only is it a fun show to watch, “Forum” is a fun show to be a part of, Beauchamp says. Performers can let loose and have fun. That might explain why it draws performers back. Many of the Civic cast have experience with “Forum,” including the director who previously choreographed it at Arena Dinner Theatre.
“There are very few shows that you go, ‘Oh my gosh, I wish I could do that again,’” Beauchamp says. This is one of them.
The show, originally slated to be part of Civic’s pandemic-truncated 2020-21 season, now opens the 2021-22 season as the theater group returns to its home stage at Arts United Center after shows at Foellinger Theatre and Embassy Theatre where larger audiences were possible under social distancing protocols.
For “Forum” and Civic’s next show, “Every Brilliant Thing,” most of the house will be back to regular seating with socially distanced seating available in the last six rows. The cast will also be performing without masks, unlike last season.
Beauchamp applauds the talent in her cast and encourages people to come out and see live theater again.
“No matter what happened in their day up until they walked into that theater, I know that when they are in that theater watching these actors, they are going to leave with a huge smile on their faces,” she says. “After 16 months, that is something worth the price of admission.”
If you go
What: “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday and July 30 and 31 and Aug. 6 and 7; 2 p.m. Sunday and Aug 1 and 8
Where: Arts United Center, 303 E. Main St.
Admission: $35 adults, $30 seniors, $22 youth; ArtsTix Community Box Office in Arts United Center, 424-5220 or tickets.artstix.org