Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

February 19, 2019

REVIEW: Opera House Players, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Opera House Players, Enfield, CT
through February 24, 2019
by Michael J. Moran

Forum was the first (1962) of many legendary Broadway shows with words and music by Stephen Sondheim, and it’s currently receiving an exuberant production by the Opera House Players, inventively directed by George LaVoice, that’s a must-see for musical theater lovers.

Photo by Emma Connel
With a book by Bert Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, the setting is ancient Rome, and the source material is several farces by Roman playwright Plautus. It tells the bawdy tale of how a slave named Pseudolus tries to win his freedom by helping his young master, Hero, win the affections of Philia, the girl next door (a brothel). The clean and simple set by scenic designer Francisco Aguas consists of three houses, belonging to Marcus Lycus (the brothel), Senex (Hero’s father), and Erronius (away in search of his two children, kidnapped 20 years earlier).

Pseudolus (versatile Dennis J. Scott) and the three nimble Proteans (Ray Boisvert, Donato DiGenova, and Frank Cannizzo), who play 30 different roles, set a buoyant tone for the show with an ebullient “Comedy Tonight.” Patrick Connolly, a lanky Hero, sings “Love, I Hear” with endearing innocence, a quality to which Mallory Wray as the hopelessly na├»ve Philia adds vocal glamour in their charming duet “Lovely.”   

Complications ensue when Lycus (canny David Leslie) reveals that he has sold Philia to the self-infatuated soldier of fortune Miles Gloriosus (hilarious Tim Reilly). But not before Pseudolus, having procured her from Lycus, tells Senex that she’s his new maid, prompting the delightful “Everybody Ought To Have a Maid,” deliciously performed, with Karen Anne McMahon’s soft-shoe choreography, by Pseudolus, Senex, his “head slave” (“I live to grovel”) Hysterium (high-strung Rick Fountain, a hoot when he later impersonates a dead Philia – don’t ask), and Lycus.

Whew! Sounds complicated. But it’s all in great fun.

Musical director Mark Cepetelli’s spirited four-member band sounds much bigger, thanks in part to the large orchestra pit and strong acoustic of the company’s temporary home in the Enfield Annex (formerly Fermi High School). Colorful period costumes by the ever-resourceful Moonyean Field put the crowning (or clowning) touch on this magical production.