Take music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart. Then add on the years of experience of the cast and crew of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at Vero Beach Theatre Guild and you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a rollicking good time between the March 12 opening night and the closing curtain March 31.
One of the things the Guild does so well is a well-written farce and farces don’t get much better than Forum. Greg Harris plays the role of the slave Pseudolus, played originally by Zero Mostel on stage and in the 1966 film. Harris said he loved watching Zero Mostel and Nathan Lane bring the character of Pseudolus to life, “and now it’s my turn … It’s fun and daunting all in one … an actor’s dream! What other show do you get to go in and just play and make people laugh?”
Harris made his debut at Vero Beach Theatre Guild in Hello Dolly and has appeared in Cabaret and last year’s fundraising events. He’s been music director of two Gilbert and Sullivan shows there and did a Reader’s Theatre production opposite his wife, Caitlin Harris. Both Harrises teach at Storm Grove Middle School in Vero Beach.
This is lucky 13 for Martha Kelly, who plays Domina in “Forum.” She began with a small role in Annie Get Your Gun in 2008 and has taken hold of the funny lady genre, from “Miss Hannigan in 'Annie' to Lady Bracknell in 'The Importance of Being Earnest'; from the madame of a whorehouse in 'Tenderloin' to a singing nun in 'The Sound of Music' and a lady detective in 'The Games Afoot’,” she said.
It’s a brilliantly written show that takes more than the usual stamina. The lyrics are quick, so “it’s a challenge to sing them without losing their meaning. The dialogue moves at breakneck speed and most singing is done on the run,” Kelly said.
This is Tara Giovannone’s third show for Vero Beach Theatre Guild but her first Sondheim, and she said she enjoys the challenge of singing the music. Her character, Philia, has been taught only the importance of beauty and grace, and not a bit of the three Rs, an interesting challenge for Giovannone, who has a degree in electrical engineering.
Costume designer Patti Hall said she goes back to a show’s roots when she begins her costuming journey. “I research the original concepts and then start from there. Next I draw my design concepts and start creating.” Hall is fairly new to the Guild, beginning with Yankee Tavern as head prop master and costume assistant. From that start, she jumped to the head of the costume department, with a bit of directing thrown in. She’ll direct Moonlight and Magnolias next season. Hall is also a mixed-media artist and “a creative soul who has designed many costumes, puppets, and a small clothing line,” she said.
Director Beth Shestak called directing the show a rewarding challenge. She has choreographed several shows for Vero Beach Theatre Guild but, “having full control to bring my whole interpretation of a show to life is extremely fulfilling!” she said. Shestak did the technical work on “forum” at the Bert Reynolds Institute as a teenager and has wanted to revisit it ever since. She said, “I truly love this script, but it is a very energetic undertaking for all involved, production team, technicians, and especially the cast.”