I could fill this 500-word review of Lakewood Playhouse's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum with disclaimers and disclosures, but I'm obliged to review the play itself so I need to dispense with them quickly. First, I auditioned for Forum and made it as far as callbacks. Second, director Brie Yost is a family friend who presided over my wedding. Third, I'm directing the next show at Lakewood Playhouse, Sherlock's Last Case. So am I biased? I try not to be, but you be the judge. I note further that my schedule required me to see Forum at an early dress rehearsal, but it looked polished even then.
As always, the question is what this production needs to accomplish most. If it's historical accuracy, then we may be in a spot of bother. Yost includes numerous anachronistic touches. Doesn't matter: Forum moves to its next gag so quickly you'll barely notice. Job one is in the title: it has to be funny, and it is. Between Chris Cantrell, Alex Smith and Steve Tarry, there's always someone on stage with decades of experience and a wealth of comic timing. Cantrell looked out of breath from time to time - but it's hard to imagine a Pseudolus who wouldn't be. The songs, by famed cast-breaker Stephen Sondheim, are collisions of clever lyrics presented at Busta Rhymes tempo. "I'm not a dancer," Cantrell informed us, but I felt he held his own just fine. The same goes for the other non-dancers in the cast. Casi Wilkerson's choreography and the antics and acrobatics of three "Protean" clowns are a constant delight.
Marty Mackenzie, a recent favorite from Someone Who'll Watch Over Me at Tacoma Little Theatre, steals the show in scattered appearances as Erronius, a noble who summons a god from the dramaturgical machine to untangle the play. Dawn Padula ("Domina") has a wonderful voice, but her garish makeup was a constant distraction and her screeching character voice was difficult to understand in Act I. The ladies of the House of Lycus, however, have no such issues; they bump and grind appealingly as required.
For months now, Yost and LP promotional materials have promised the show would be "performed in the true burlesque and vaudevillian style ... The word ‘tassels' has been mentioned ... a lot!" It turns out there's nary a tassel to be seen; so while Forum is as bawdy as it needs to be, it's also much tamer than expected. A few corsets and phallus jokes aside, there's little here to offend even the most puritanical of viewers. I found the "orchestra" thin, but that's par for the course at LP.
Forum has clever, memorable songs, one funny bit after another, and attractive people in what could never be described as an overabundance of clothing. Even its farcical structure coheres. What more do you want - tassels? I guess they're in that Forum we never quite reach. Roman curses!
[Lakewood Playhouse, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, $22-28, 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. through July 8, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood, 253.588.0042]