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A Funny Thing Happened

Apr. 23, 2013 @ 07:18 AM

HUNTINGTON — The Marshall Theater Alliance will be hosting a production, its last of the semester, of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” a the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse this week.
The play written by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart features songs by Stephen Sondheim.

Considered one of the great comedies of Broadway, the play has inspired a host of revivals and was turned a feature film in 1966 starring Zero Mostel, Phil Silvers and Buster Keaton. It is also a homage to the comedies written by the Roman playwright Plautus. The play will run at 8 p.m. nightly April 24-27. There will be a 2 p.m. matinee show on Sunday, April 28.

Tickets are $20 for the general public and $15 for Marshall University faculty members and senior citizens. Admission will be free for Marshall students. To order tickets, call the box office at 304-696-2787.

The show will also be a return to form for Theater Programming Director Jack Cirillo, who appeared in an Off Broadway production of the play in 1991. Cirillo will be reprising the role of Pseudolus, a clever slave who seeks to help his master’s son woo the girl next door in exchange for his own freedom. 

“The first time I wore a toga and played this role was 22 years ago in New York,” he said. “It was the first revival of the play since the 1970s and I was lucky enough to play this role with an outstanding cast. We got a New York Times review.  Stephen Soundheim, who wrote the score, and Larry Gelbart, who co-authored the play, came to it. It was an exciting time for me.  A year later I was asked to play the role with a new cast at the Tony Award winning Repertory Theater of Saint Lewis.

“’A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ is for my money the funniest musical comedy ever written,” Cirillo added. “Come ready for an evening of laughs, dance and terrific music. It is the fastest two hours of your life.”

The play will be directed by Nicole Perrone, assistant professor of acting, voice and movement in the Theater Department.

“A lot of the student performers are people that our audiences have been watching grow over the past four years,” Perrone said. “Chase Likens plays a major role. He was the theater student who was a finalist on ‘American Idol.’ Josh Meredith also plays a major role. He was the star of a solo performance called ‘Josh M’ that was a big hit at the theater.  We also have several newcomers to our stage. Some of the lead roles are played by freshmen and sophomores.”

Perrone said the choice of this production was by design.

“We’ve been following a system where we do a musical every other year on our main stage alternating with a Shakespeare play,” she said. “The last musical we did on our main stage was ‘Working’ in 2011. The musicals are big productions that require a lot of resources with large casts and an orchestra. We have to save our resources in order to be able to do these every other year. All of the costumes are being built down in our costume shop, and our scenic design and intro to technical theater classes are building the sets. Some of the same actors who are on stage in the play are building and painting the set. Our students have a very hands-on experience and get to be involved in every aspect of production. In all of those capacities they are lead by the professors and staff members here.”

This production will get a boost from area musician Mark Smith, who has been heavily involved in local community theatre and travels as part of “America’s Got Talent” winner Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.’s band.

“For the last two main stage  musicals we have been fortunate enough to hire Mark Smith, who is involved in most of the theater in the community and is active in the theater department,” Perrone said. “He will serve as the musical director of the show. He hires musicians from a combination of students and freelance professionals.”

Casting for the play began in December shortly before the winter break and rehearsal started in early March.

For more information on “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and the Marshall Theater Alliance, go online at www.marshall.edu/cofa/theatre/.