Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Walnut Street Theatre
Review by Rebecca Rendell | Season Schedule

Also see Cameron's reviews of Elizabeth Cree and Red Velvet and Rebecca's review of Strange Tenants

The Cast
Photo by Mark Garvin
There is truly something for everyone in Stephen Sondheim, Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart's bawdy musical comedy A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Slapstick soldiers and courtesans in rhinestone-encrusted bikinis, clever lyrics, and bad puns, love at first sight and long lost children, clever slaves and foolish captains, mistaken identity, potions, phenomenal music, and more dirty jokes than you can shake your Colosseum at. Walnut Street Theatre's sleek and dazzling production is hilariously funny and a great way to escape your cares, if only for tonight.

Set in ancient Rome, Forum is the story of Pseudolus, a mischievous slave whose young master Hero falls in love with the beautiful but dimwitted Philia, a courtesan living next door. Pseudolus will win his freedom if the pair get married, but Hero's parents would never approve and Philia has already been sold to Captain Miles Gloriosus. Any potentially thorny moral issues raised by slavery or sexual exploitation are ignored in favor of circuitous plans, ridiculous disguises, and an impressive roster of contagiously upbeat songs.

Effortlessly charming and funny, Frank Ferrante brings a vaudeville flair to the role of Pseudolus and raises the level of the entire production. That Ferrante is also the director only adds to his gravitas on stage and his role as master of ceremonies. Much loved Mary Martello is brilliant as Hero's aptly named mother Domina. Ron Wisniski gets big laughs as Senex, young Hero's father. His interactions with Martello are hilarious. Alanna J. Smith (Philia) and Scott Greer (Hysterium) also give stand-out performances.

Mary Folino has designed a dizzying array of costumes whose movement, color, and detail contribute to the production's fun energy. The excellent lighting is similarly playful, thanks to lighting designer Paul Black.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is one of the all time great musical comedies and Ferrante's top-notch production keeps the audience laughing out loud and tapping their toes. Turn off your cell phone, forget about politics, push any concerns about misogyny to the back of your mind and just enjoy the ride—I guarantee you will be glad you did.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum runs through October 22, 2017, at the Walnut Street Theatre 825 Walnut Street Philadelphia, PA. For tickets and information, call 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787. Tickets are also available online 24/7 by visiting or Ticketmaster.

Production and Design Staff
Director: Frank Ferrante
Choreographer: Michelle Gaudette
Musical and Vocal Director: John Daniels
Scenic Design: Robert Andrew Kovach
Lighting Design: Paul Black
Costume Design: Mary Folino
Sound Design: Ed Chapman

The Cast:
Pseudolus, slave to Hero: Frank Ferrante*
Hysterium, slave to Senex and Domina: Scott Greer*
Gymnasia, a courtesan: Billy D. Hart*
Domina, wife of Senex: Mary Martello*
Hero, son of Senex and Domina: Brandon O'rourke*
Miles Gloriosus, A Warrior: Nichalas L. Parker*
Lycus, a buyer and seller of courtesans: Fran Prisco*
Philia, a virgin: Alanna J. Smith*
Erronius, a citizen of Rome: Bill Van Horn*
Senex, a citizen of Rome: Ron Wisniski*
The Proteans: Ben Dibble*, Jennie Eisenhower*, Dave Jadico*

Sara Brophy*, Anne Connors*, Jennie Eisenhower*, Billy D. Hart*, Kimberly Maxson, Ellie Mooney*, Kerri Rose*

Ronnie Keller, Mikal K. Odom, Jenna Rogalski, Ruby Westfall

* Denotes membership in Actors' Equity Association, the professional union of Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.