Pictured Above: Bob Kaplan, Matt Fama, Matthew Conlon, Nicholas Auletti, Thomas Milton, Tom Ciorciari in rehearsal for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum | Dane DuPuis photo for HTC

“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” one of American theatre’s most raucous and irresistible musicals, will put an exclamation point on the Hampton Theatre Company’s 2023-2024 season when it premieres on May 23, with performances running through June 9 at the Quogue Community Hall.

The musical tells the bawdy story of an upwardly mobile slave in ancient Rome named Pseudolus, who schemes to win his freedom by helping his young master Hero woo Philia, the naïve beauty who also happens to be one of the courtesans in the house of Marcus Lycus, next door.

Pseudolus’s efforts are complicated by a series of misadventures involving a colorful collection of Roman denizens, including Hero’s overprotective parents — the long-suffering Senex and his overbearing wife Domina; Hysterium, the aptly named head slave of the house of Senex; Miles Gloriosus, a grandiose Roman warrior with claims on Philia; and the perambulatory Erronius, whose house provides a temporary if not-so-safe haven for would-be lovers. 

The farce promises more than a few groanworthy puns, multiple slamming doors, and numerous cases of mistaken identity. The title derives from a phrase attributed to vaudeville comedians, who often begin a story: “A funny thing happened on the way to the theater.”

The play is loosely inspired by the farces of the ancient playwright Plautus, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Burt Shevelove (“No, No, Nanette”) and Larry Gelbart (creator of of the TV series M*A*S*H).

The original production featured an A-list team including the actors Zero Mostel (who reprised his Tony-winning Broadway role in the hit 1966 film), Jack Gilford and John Carradine; director George Abbott and producer Hal Prince. An uncredited Jerome Robbins also contributed significantly to the show’s staging and choreography.       

It caused a seismic sensation on Broadway when it premiered in May 1962, winning multiple Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

HTC says this production has proved to be one of the most ambitious in the history of the Hampton Theatre Company. It includes a spirited ensemble cast of 15, who bring to life both the show’s irreverent comedy and its memorable musical numbers, including “Comedy Tonight,” “Free,” “Lovely,” “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid” and “Impossible.” 

Seasoned veterans of Hampton Theatre Company productions and new-to-HTC talents populate the cast. In alphabetical order, they are: Nicholas Auletti (as Prologus/Pseudolus), Jamie Baio (Hero), Andrew Botsford (Lycus), Esmeralda Cabrera (Tintinabula), Tom Ciorciari (Hysterium), Matthew Conlon (Gloriosus), Mary Conley (Philia), Alissa Dabrowski (Vibratta), Matt Fama (Protean), Livvie Hirshfield (Gymnasia), Jessica Howard (Domina), Bob Kaplan (Senex), Dara Lifschutz (Panacea), George A. Loizides (Erronius/3rd Warrior) and Thomas Milton (Protean).

Directing “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” is Rosemary Cline; co-producers are Rosemary Cline and Andrew Botsford. Music Director Dee Laveglia is the  keyboard accompanist; choreography is by Nora Moutrane. Set design is by Ricky Bottenus; scenic painting by Ron Becker; lighting design is by Sebastian Paczynski; sound designis by Jonathan Presto; and costumes are by Teresa Lebrun. 

Performances will run from May 23 through June 9 on Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.. An additional matinee performance will be offered on Saturday, June 8, at 2:30 p.m., prior to the regular 8 p.m. performance that evening. Two talkbacks with the cast will be offered to ticketholders immediately following the May 31 and June 7 Friday evening performances. 

Tickets are $48 for adults, $43 for seniors, and $27 for students 25 and under, and are available at hamptontheatre.org or by calling 631-653-8955.  

Patrons can also watch for details on purchasing season subscriptions and individual tickets for upcoming shows in the company’s landmark 40th season, to be announced soon.  

The company’s 39th season is dedicated to Don and Judy Gruhn, Quogue residents and longtime friends and supporters of the HTC.

East End Beacon
The East End Beacon is your guide to social and environmental issues, arts & culture on the East End of Long Island.

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