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Krannert’s latest production: something familiar, something peculiar, something for everyone

The+cast+takes+a+bow+during+a+rehearsal+of+A+Funny+Thing+Happened+on+the+Way+to+the+Forum+in+the+Colwell+Playhouse+at+Krannert+Center+in+Urbana+on+Tuesday%2C+October+16%2C+2018.
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Krannert’s latest production: something familiar, something peculiar, something for everyone

The cast takes a bow during a rehearsal of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in the Colwell Playhouse at Krannert Center in Urbana on Tuesday, October 16, 2018.

The cast takes a bow during a rehearsal of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in the Colwell Playhouse at Krannert Center in Urbana on Tuesday, October 16, 2018.

Photo courtesy of Darrell Hoemann

The cast takes a bow during a rehearsal of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in the Colwell Playhouse at Krannert Center in Urbana on Tuesday, October 16, 2018.

Photo courtesy of Darrell Hoemann

Photo courtesy of Darrell Hoemann

The cast takes a bow during a rehearsal of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in the Colwell Playhouse at Krannert Center in Urbana on Tuesday, October 16, 2018.

By Shreya Goel, Contributing Writer

A set with ten doors provides the space for madcap insanity and musical comedy in the Theatre department’s latest production.

With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, based on the book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is one of the six productions offered by the Department of Theatre this year and is currently playing at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

The musical will be performed at the Colwell Playhouse at Krannert, as it plays October 25 through October 27 at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday, October 28 at 3 p.m. Tickets range from $10 to $25.

Directed by J.W. Morrissette, the Associate Head of the Department of Theater at the University, the musical is comparable to his most recently directed musical, Assassins, which had a “great deal of very dark comedy and far more serious intents,” Morrissette said about the Forum, “lovely change of pace.”

Morrissette initially got involved with the production as he thought that it would be a great opportunity for FAA students to learn the professional practices of a musical farce.

“The research-based implications about how taking a comedy, based on an ancient Roman playwright, mixing it in a mid-20th century musical treatment, and presenting that to a contemporary audience, poses the question of how comedy potentially has changed and what comedy’s role might be defined as today,” he said.

Emma Anderson, junior in FAA, contributes to the production as a Protean – a chorister who plays different roles during the course of the show. She described her role as very physically demanding. The Proteans serve as the backbone of the show, Anderson explained, and also accompany the main character, Pseudolus, in the well-known song “Comedy Tonight.”

Anderson and Jacklyn Ovassapian, a student in FAA who portrays Tintinabula, a courtesan in the house of Lycus, said the production is characterized by its ridiculousness and outrageousness, which is depicted by everything from the costumes to the way the stage is set.

“When the curtain goes up, everyone is taken aback for a second,” Ovassapian said.

The production puts a unique spin on the original Tony-award winning musical that opened on Broadway for the first time in 1962. For instance, the cast is more diverse, starring Professor Lisa Gaye Dixon, Interim Chair of the Acting Program, in the lead role of Pseudolus. 

“We are a more inclusive theatre in the 21st century,” Morisette said. “We have different ideas about gender constructs and representations.” 

The show is driven by the director’s famous motto onset, which simply states everything in the show needs to be bigger, faster and funnier.

“One of the opportunities we had with this work was to expand our artistic choices to include the unimaginable,” Morrissette said.

He also said the phrase serves the purpose of reminding the cast and crew to explore the extremes of possibilities in all their work.

“Timing is so imperative. We don’t want the audience to miss a single joke,” Anderson said.

Having rehearsed for roughly 8 weeks, 6 days a week, the cast and crew found working in the production very amusing and thoroughly enjoyable.

“I’m usually giggling myself silly at the work that I was lucky enough to see done each night,” Morrissette said.

Anderson said the best part about her job was being able to witness her fellow cast members perform and watching the progress of the show, along with being part of the action herself.

“Don’t look down; you might miss something,” Ovassapian said, emphasizing the intricate work put into the mise-en-scene. She describes the plain, cut-and-dry humor as thoroughly entertaining.

Anderson encourages the viewers to take a break from their busy, tiring lives and bask in the joy and humor depicted by the Roman comedy. The cast enjoys breaking the fourth wall and interacting with the audience, occasionally. Ovassapian also said the audience’s appreciation during the show boosts the cast’s energy.

“I’d invite anyone to attend this performance; whether theatre is completely new to you or you’ve been a devotee for a lifetime, I think you’ll enjoy the show,” Morrissette said.

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