In their 31st year, the UFV Theatre Department marked their first ever full scale musical with their presentation of A Funny a Thing happened on the Way to the Forum. There were some concerns among the department about doing a musical, but it turns out it was a huge success; opening night was packed with patrons and new comers alike.
The Tony award winning musical is about… well it’s a big and complicated to be honest. And there were some moments of confusion even while watching it, but, essentially, it’s set in ancient Rome, and it’s about Pseudolus, a clever slave (played by Stephen Wilhite), who tries to win his freedom by agreeing to help his master Hero (played by Eli Funk) win the love of one of the girls who lives in the house of beautiful women next door, Philia (played by Caroline Davies). While trying to do this, everything seems to go wrong, and many elements of farce are brought in, including: puns, slamming doors, mistaken identity, satirical comments on social class and somewhat naughty innuendoes (which were all well received by the audience).
The set design was impressive. The artists were able to give the audience a true taste of Rome with their pastel Roman houses. The great thing about the UFV stage is the way it juts out into the audience (it’s called a thrust stage), which helps break down the fourth wall between actors and audience. Thanks to the stage and the actors, this musical felt more intimate, having the actors running about the seats and sometimes even sitting on the stairs beside them. That being said, sometimes the thrust stage hinders the audience’s ability to see everything. Luckily, the actors were good at trying to work around that issue.
The actors were all well cast and very comical. Tim Howe who played Lycus (the buyer and seller of beautiful women) was very charismatic and hilarious, even when he was in the background. The actors who played the Proteans; Dylan Coulter, Nial Harrison-Morry and Thomas Smith were by far the most hilarious part of the musical. They were constantly running, singing and changing costumes – they pulled it off perfectly and with style. The entire cast had excellent voices, especially Eli Funk and Caroline Davies; their voices were wonderful. There were some moments when it would have been handy for the actors to have microphones, but they all tried their best to compensate, and it didn’t go unnoticed. Gabe Kirkley who played Miles Gloriosus was perfect for the part of the sea captain: his over-the-top acting was hilarious. As well, the level of devotion by the cast was impressive – to stick with ancient Roman fashion all the men in the cast shaved their legs.
Over all, A Funny a Thing happened on the Way to the Forum is hilarious and exciting. Its ridiculous and sentimental moments are all entertaining, and the songs are all excellent. While it is obvious they are amateur singers, they do a great job. This musical is a true testament to the talents of the UFV theatre department, especially Ian Fenwick, the director, and Nicola Davies and Shelley Wojcik, music director and choreographer respectively. This is definitely one show you don’t want to miss, and let’s hope there are more musicals for the UFV theatre department in the future.