A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, music and lyrics by Steven Sondheim, directed by Graham Maxwell. At Hart House Theatre (7 Hart House Circle). To September 29. $12-$20. 416-978-8849, www.uofttix.ca. Rating: NNN
When it closed after an amazing 964 shows in the early 60s, Broadway musical A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum garnered a slew of Tonys, as much for the wit of its book as for its starry cast. Graham Maxwell's production may not pack the glitz of the original, but it does prove that after all these years, the bawdy script's jokes hold up well.
For this production, Maxwell plays up Funny Thing's vaudeville routines, encouraging his actors to embroider on the material with silly shtick and burlesque gags.
Leading this pack of clowns is Cory Doran as Pseudolus, a fast-talking Roman slave who will stop at nothing to win his freedom, even if it means impersonating a cross-dressing slave owner or lying to a blind old man. The more desperate his actions, the funnier the play becomes, gaining speed toward the end of act one.
If there is one problem, it's that the cast is a little uneven when it comes to delivering Stephen Sondheim's tunes. Polished numbers like Christine Aziz's That Dirty Old Man get their laughs, but for the most part you'll be itching for the sight gags and hijinks to resume.
A hearty Roman thumbs-up to the set, also conceived by Maxwell. Best described as a series of kooky gingerbread houses on wheels, it adds a colourful backdrop to the show's giddy frenzy.