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Zemfira Stage A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

By • Sep 2nd, 2011 • Category: Reviews
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Zemfira Stage
James Lee Community Center Theater, Falls Church, VA
Through September 10th
2:15 with one intermission
$15/$10 Students, Seniors/$6 Children
Reviewed September 1st, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To The Forum is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, inspired by the plays of Plautus. The slave Pseudolus desperately wants his freedom. Young Hero has fallen desperately in love with a virgin courtesan. Erronius is desperate to find his long-lost children. And Senex is just desperate. It’s everything you need for a raucous musical farce. It’s too bad the parts didn’t combine to create the hilarity the script deserves. Zemfira Stage may have set the goal a bit too high for their first musical production.

Some of the performers in Thursday night’s Pay-What-You-Can-performance seemed unsure of themselves and a bit uneasy on stage. Director Zina Bleck may have needed a little more rehearsal time to work with the actors on their characterizations. The performers seemed to have one eye on the conductor (Ken Farley) at all times, leading to several awkward transitions before a song. There were a few lighting miscues that interrupted the flow of the show. The set was minimal, made up of a series of columns in different styles to represent the show’s three houses.

Jim Mitchell as the slave Psedulos played to the audience with much comedic style and laughter. His booming voice was easily heard above the orchestra. Hysterium, the slave tasked with keeping Hero young and innocent, was played by Denise Mattingly. Mattingly, though believable as the handwringing, anxious slave, wasn’t the best vocalist, but presented a convincing “nervous Nellie.” Eric Worcester as Hero, the love-sick boy, seemed somewhat flat Thursday night. He appeared to drift from scene to scene with no real emotion. His love Philia (Rachel Harrington), a courtesan pledged to another man, was also flat. But for the dim-witted character of Philia it came across as a conscious acting decision.

Another group that managed to play up to the audience with great flare were the three Proteans played by Katherine Bisulca, Jasmine Bull and Rich Prien. Playing several minor background characters, they were each making faces and seemed involved with their characters. The Gymnasia courtesan was some what off-color, but managed to elicit some laughter. Brian Johnson as Miles Glorious, the captain coming to retrieve the courtesan Philia, was larger than life, though Johnson’s vocals were strained. Also larger than life was Domina, wife of Senex. Her over the top gestures and emotions were sometimes too much. Yet with his kind of performance one could argue that there is no such thing as too much!

Now that the opening night is over, perhaps the performers can settle in and come together to make a cohesive unit.

Photo Gallery

Hysterium (Denise Mattingly), Pseudolous (Jim Mitchell) Pseudolous (Jim Mitchell), Hysterium (Denise Mattingly)
Hysterium (Denise Mattingly), Pseudolous (Jim Mitchell)
Pseudolous (Jim Mitchell), Hysterium (Denise Mattingly)
Pseudolous (Jim Mitchell), Tintinabula, a courtesan from the House of Marcus Lycus (Colleen Conner), Hysterium (Denise Mattingly) One of the Geminae twins, a courtesan (Bethany Michel), Marcus Lycus (Justin Mohay), Tintinabula, a courtesan (Colleen Conner)
Pseudolous (Jim Mitchell), Tintinabula, a courtesan from the House of Marcus Lycus (Colleen Conner), Hysterium (Denise Mattingly)
One of the Geminae twins, a courtesan (Bethany Michel), Marcus Lycus (Justin Mohay), Tintinabula, a courtesan (Colleen Conner)

Photos provided by Zemfira Stage

Cast

  • Senex: David Birkenbilt
  • Courtesan Panacea, Protean: Katherine Bisulca
  • Courtesan Vibrata, Protean: Jasmine Bull
  • Erronius: Bailey R. Center
  • Courtesan Tintinabula: Colleen Connor
  • Philia: Rachel Harrington
  • Miles Gloriosus: Brian Johnson
  • Domina: Meganne McCawley Johnson
  • Hysterium: Denise Mattingly
  • Courtesan Geminae: Bethany Michel
  • Psedolus: Jim Mitchell
  • Marcus Lycus: Justin Mohay
  • Protean, Gymnasia: Richard prien
  • Courtesan Geminae: Samantha Reau
  • Hero: Eric Worcester

Crew

  • Director/Producer: Zina Bleck
  • Orchestra Director: Ken Farley
  • Co-Choral Directors: Jonathan Blanck, Rachel Harrington, Richard Yingling
  • Choreographer: Amy Treat
  • Assistant Choreographer/ Dance Captain: Bethany Michel
  • Stage Manager: Natalie Woods
  • Lighting Designer: Stacy King
  • Front of House/ Box Office: Erin DiCaprio, Sallie Willows

Orchestra

  • French Horn: Allan Badrow
  • Keyboard: Jonathan Blank
  • Cello: Kate Borg
  • Bass: Leslie Collins
  • Clarinet: Annette Fakoury
  • Flute, piccolo: Carolyn Farley
  • Saxophone: Barbara Koehler
  • Violin: Sandra Ludes
  • Violin: Hanna Lee Rodriguez
  • Clarinet, Flute, Saxophone: Howard McCullers
  • Trumpet: Dave Shuma

Disclaimer: Zemfira Stage provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review. We have worked with many of the cast and crew of this show in the past, and Laura will be stage managing for one of the actors in the fall.

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started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.

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