A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
The Goodspeed Opera House offers a sprightly production of this great musical farce.
It helps that Adam Heller chooses to play it cool but warm, rather than desperate, as Pseudolus, the ingenious Roman slave who sets the various colliding plots in motion. From the moment that Heller takes the stage, assuring the audience of unmitigated fun and games to come, he seems eminently trustworthy. Heller never overreaches for a reaction; he just exudes offhanded charm and a palpable delight in the ever-escalating, increasingly byzantine intrigues that Pseudolos jerry-rigs in a bid to to secure his freedom.
This bemused and playful Pseudolus leaves the field for fretting wide open to his slave superior, Hysterium -- and John Scherer, sporting a spiky Peter Sellars brush cut, never overdoes the panic implicit in his character's name. His big number, "I'm Calm," is more of a repressed knuckle-biter than a full-scale freak-out, and it's all the funnier for it.
As Hero, the handsome young calf besotted with the concubine-to-be next door, Sam Pinkleton is a real find. Not only does he have the requisite cartoon-hero looks (and sculpted thighs), but his take on "Love, I Hear" is a real, fully-lived journey. His rivalrous duet with his father, Senex, is another memorable moment -- even if David Wohl inexplicably employs a Sean Connery "ac-shent" that somewhat obscures his lines and lyrics. As Senex's Gorgonian wife Domina, Mary Gutzi pulls out all the stops.