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PEACH WEEKENDER | THEATER

‘A Funny Thing’ on its way to the Croswell

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    John Bacarella, left, Jared Hoffert, and A.J. Howard perform a song from ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ with Xavier Sarabia and Emily Hribar, who play star-crossed couple Hero and Philia.

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    A view of the seating in the auditorium of the Croswell Opera House in Adrian, Mich.

In A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, opening Friday at the Croswell Opera House in Adrian, something funny is always happening, and happening fast.

The high-energy vaudeville-style musical comedy, which debuted on Broadway in 1962 and won the Tony Award for Best Musical, is set in ancient Rome and was inspired by the works of Plautus, a Roman playwright born in third-century B.C.

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Modern audiences are fortunate to enjoy the talents of Stephen Sondheim, who wrote the music and lyrics for the show, and Larry Gelbart and Burt Shevelove, who wrote the book; Gelbart later became the creator and producer of TV’s M*A*S*H.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum has bawdy humor, slapstick comedy, silly schemes, misguided plans, and a cast that seems to never stop running around while they try to figure out who’s who, doing what.

The plot centers on Pseudolus, a slave living in the house of Senex and Domina and their son, Hero, and the always-hysterical head slave, Hysterium.

Pseudolus is determined to fix Hero up with a beautiful courtesan named Philia to gain his freedom. Philia has fallen in love with Hero, but she is already promised to a captain of the Roman army, Miles Gloriosus, who is on his way to town.

Also in the neighborhood is Erronius, who is searching for his two children, who were kidnapped long ago by pirates; Gymnasia, a courtesan Pseudolus loves; and a crew of beautiful courtesans, and a host of other zany characters.

“Everybody in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is so human, because they all have their faults,” said Mark DiPietro, who is directing the Croswell production and also directed the show there in 1999. “No one is necessarily saving the day. It’s like a serial, almost like Indiana Jones — ‘Let’s get into trouble and then get out of it, and then right away, get into more trouble.’ It’s fun for the people performing in it as well as for those going to see it.”

Pseudolus is a great role, and a challenging one, because he barely leaves the stage, said Jared Hoffert, who plays the character in the Croswell shows. “I’m very tired at the end of the night, but it’s a lot of fun, I love doing it.

“Pseudolus is turning all the gears; he’s the one that puts all these plans into motion. And sometimes they don’t work, and sometimes he makes some stupid choices, but his brain is always working. He’s figuring out how to get people to do what he wants, how to get out of a situation that frankly he got himself into.”

Near the beginning of the play Pseudolus, appearing as “Prologus,” says in the show’s prologue that his is “a role of tremendous variety and nuance,” Hoffert said, adding “it is so true.”

The cast features Julia Hoffert as Domina, Xavier Sarabia as Hero, Emily Hribar as Philia, John MacNaughton as Hysterium, Ron Baumanis as Senex, Steve Kiersey as Marcus Lycus, Cordell Smith as Miles Gloriosus, Bill McCloskey as Erronius, Sarah Nowak as Gymnasia, Jamie Buechele as Tintinbula, Tara Althaus as Vibrata, Jessica Adams and Beth Felerski as Geminae, and Madeline Auth as Panacea. The Proteans are played by John Bacarella, Mark Hyre, and A.J. Howard.

Jonathan Sills is the music director, leading a 17-piece orchestra, and Delle Clair is the choreographer.

Performances of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Croswell Opera House, 129 E. Maumee St., Adrian. Additional shows are at 8 p.m. Aug. 18-19, and 2:30 p.m. Aug. 20. Tickets, $15-$35, are from croswell.org and 517-264-7469.

Pop opera

Bare: A Pop Opera will be presented this weekend at the Collingwood Arts Center by Stone Productions.

The sung-through musical, with book and lyrics by Jon Hartmere, Jr., and music and lyrics by Damon Intrabartolo, debuted in Los Angeles in 2000 and Off-Broadway in 2004.

The story centers on two gay students, Jason and Peter, at a private Catholic boarding school. Peter has accepted himself and is ready to come out, but Jason, a popular athlete, is not, said Jaymes Gregory Mull, Stone Productions’ artistic director and president.

Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday (doors open at 7 p.m.) and at 3 p.m. Sunday (doors open at 2 p.m.), at the Collingwood Arts Center’s Underground Theatre, 2413 Collingwood Blvd. Tickets are $12 from brownpapertickets.com, or $15 at the door.

Contact Sue Brickey at sbrickey@theblade.com.

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