“Comedy Tonight” is the opening number and sets the tone for “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” with words and music by Stephen Sondheim, book by Burt Shrevelove and Larry Gelbart.
It promises an evening of fun and a wry look at society — then and now — playing through Feb. 5 at Town Hall Arts Center in downtown Littleton.
Based on a comedy by the Roman Plautus, circa 250 B.C., it spins the bawdy story of a scheming slave named Pseudolus and his attempt to gain his freedom by helping his young master Hero to win the lovely courtesan Philia who recently appeared next door.
The colorful set shows three doorways in a row: that of Marcus Lycus, who buys, sells and supplies a bevy of courtesans to customers. In the center: the home of Senex, a wealthy Roman with a wife appropriately named Domina, a son Hero and servants Hysterium and Pseudolus. The third facade and door belongs to elderly Erronius, who has been traveling for years searching for his two children who were stolen by pirates.
Town Hall favorite Scott McLean plays the irreverent slave to a somewhat clueless Hero (Drew Hirschboeck), son of wealthy and randy Roman Senex (Tim Fishbaugh). His head slave, Hysterium, is portrayed by Rob Janzen, an ongoing victim of Pseudolus’ manipulations.
Alas, Philia (a sweet-voiced Jacqui Jo Billings) is promised to the mighty general Miles Gloriosus, who appears with his three aids. Former Marine Keegan Flaugh gets to flex his muscles and comic chops in this funny role.
Veteran director Robert Wells brings his sense of humor and skills gained in years as a comic to helming this popular show, which he says is also “influenced by French farces and American vaudeville, with its outrageous chases, mistaken identities, broad puns, social class commentaries, young lovers, over the top comics and beautiful women.” It opened on Broadway in 1962 and won the Tony Award for best musical.
It has had many revivals and a movie and is now an American theater classic.
“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” plays at Town Hall Arts Center, 2450 W. Main St., downtown Littleton. Directed by Robert Wells, choreographed by Nick Sugar, music direction by Donna K. Debreceni. Performances: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $18 to $39. 303-794-2787, www.townhallartscenter.com