Theatre-at-Tusculum will bring something familiar, something peculiar, something for everyone to the stage in November with its production of the comedy “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”
Opening Friday, Nov. 4, Director Marilyn duBrisk and a talented cast and crew will present the Stephen Sondheim musical comedy for two weekends only in the auditorium of the Annie Hogan Fine Arts Building on the Tusculum College campus.
“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” will be performed at 7 p.m. on Nov. 4-5 and Nov. 10-12. Two Sunday matinee performances are scheduled for 2 p.m. on Nov. 6 and 13.
This is not the first time duBrisk has brought the Tony Award winning musical to the Greeneville stage. The first time was in 1999 at the Haberstick Auditorium in the Roby Fitzgerald Adult Center through a partnership with the former Little Theatre of Greeneville. In fact the show will take place almost 17 years to the day of the last production.
“You can do a show multiple times and it will always be different,” said duBrisk. “I loved my original cast and I love the cast I have now. It is the actors that bring the material to life, that is the exciting thing about live theater.”
When deciding what the line up would be for this fall, duBrisk knew she wanted to do an all children’s show in the spring and wanted something ‘fast, fun, and witty’ for adults in the fall. (While there is no adult language in the production, audience members should note that the the show is chock-full of hilarious situations and innuendo.)
“It’s such witty, well-written material and you can’t beat a Sondheim musical,” said duBrisk. “The music is incredible and it challenges the actors to put their own spin on it.”
The music and lyrics were written by Sondheim, and the narrative by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gilbart takes audiences to three houses on a street in ancient Rome. One is the home of Senex a philandering, wimpy husband and his shrewd, overbearing wife Domina, portrayed by Greeneville theatre veterans Tom Sizemore and Laura Dupler. Their aloof, young son Hero (Tusculum College student Maxwell Reed) falls in love with Philia, a courtesan portrayed by the Sara Claiborne.
Philia belongs to the house of Marcus Lycus (Josh Beddingfield), who is a ‘peddler of the flesh.’ His house is next door to Senex’s home and is filled with dancing courtesans portrayed by Kelsie Cox, Whitney Marshall, Jordan Reed, Angel Smith, Kendra Tarlton and Laurie Grace Weems.
The third house is that of Erronious, an old man who has been away searching for his long lost children. Erronious is being brought to life by another local theatre favorite, Wess duBrisk.
To Hero’s disappointment, Philia has been sold to the great Roman army captain, Miles Gloriosus (Tusculum senior and Theatre-at-Tusculum veteran Zach Gass), who is on his way to claim his bride with his group of bumbling soldiers portrayed by Daniel Brown, Carter DelSorbo, River Donnelly, Micheal Emery, Jeff Klepper and David Presley.
This unlikely group is brought together in situations of mistaken identity, classic farce and slapstick chaos by Pseudolos (Steve Schultz) and Hysterium (Parker Bunch). Pseudolus is slave to Hero, who offers him an opportunity to be a freed in exchange for his help in the arrangement of an elopement between Hero and Philia. Hysterium, the proud slave-in-chief to the house of Senex, becomes Pseudolos’ unwilling co-conspirator.
Rounding out the cast are the Proteans, an ensemble of actors portraying various characters from slaves to citizens including Reagan Bunch, Victoria Harmon, Grayson Reed, Courtney Rieke and Mike Willis.
Along with duBrisk, the production team bringing the musical to the stage includes assistant director Brian Ricker and long-time Theatre-at-Tusculum musical director Angie Clendenon. Clendenon leads the pit orchestra consisting of accompanist Kasie Shelnutt and percussionist David Price, as well as bassist Jeff Elkins and woodwind instrumentalist Keri Savell.
Tusculum College Arts Outreach Costume Director Barbara Holt has assembled a collection of classic Romanesque costumes that pop with color and texture. Audiences will be transported to the ancient city by the set, designed by Arts Outreach Technical Director Frank Mengel. Its columns, balconies and archways serve as perfect backdrop for the wild, physical comedy in the musical. Stage managers for the production are Tusculum College Arts Outreach volunteers Suzanne Greene and Jim Holt. The show is being presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International and is supported in part by the Tennessee Arts Commission.
Tickets may be reserved by calling Tusculum College Arts Outreach at 423-798-1620 or by emailing Arts Outreach Coordinator and Box Office Manager Jennifer Hollowell at email@example.com. Tickets will also be available at the box office on the night of the performances, payable by cash or check only. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors (60 and over), and $5 for children (12 and under).