<bt>Stephen Sondheim's "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" was written as a vehicle for maximum laughter, whether through the double and triple entendres, the wide space for physical comedy, or both. South Lakes High School more than lived up to this expectation on this funniest of Saturday nights.
"Forum's" conflict centers around the puppy love of Hero (John-Currie Hester) and Philia (Shani McCrea), whose attempt to be together is complicated by the arrival of a virgin-prostitute, various mix-ups and lies, and various entourages of people who always seem to be working against them.
Comedy, as promised by the show's first song, "Comedy Tonight," was served up piping hot, with several refills. Arthur Maddalena, the main maker of mischief, was brilliant in his over-the-top performance, doing just about everything imaginable to incite laughter, including wooing a cross-dressed slave (Ross Oklewicz), flopping up and down on the ground, and prancing about to avoid danger. Oklewicz and Maddalena were the uncanny comic duo, playing off each other's every action and injecting burst after burst of stage energy. Hester and McCrea showcased their fine vocal talents, working well together in "Lovely" and "Pretty Little Picture." In the song that produced the most raucous hooting, "Everybody Ought to Have a Maid," Daniel Katz, Oklewicz, Maddalena, and Warren Otero reached just about the perfect combination of vocal inflection and suggestive movement.
This production of "Forum" was all about color, figurative and literal. The dialogue was animated, interesting, and energetic, and the technical aspects reemphasizing this mood were equally well done. The sets and costumes were vibrant, the orchestra excellent. Conductor Anthony Lewis kept the score tight. Doubling as a drummer, he provided the ever-crucial rimshots to emphasize some of the tongue-in-cheek jokes. The students in the orchestra were precise and well timed, adding to the musical treat of the show.
As an exposition of all things funny, South Lakes High School's production of "Forum" worked wonders.