Ancient times and vaudeville come together in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," the second summer musical being performed at the Woodminster Amphitheater in the Oakland hills. Shows are set for 8 p.m. Aug. 9-12 and Aug. 16-19.
The Broadway show was written by Stephen Sondheim and inspired by the work of the Roman playwright Plautus. It tells the story of a slave named Pseudolus and his attempts to win his freedom by helping his young master woo the girl next door.
"Sondheim is so witty, romantic and intelligent," said Montclair resident Rebecca Faiola, who plays Domina, the wife of Senex and mother of Hero in the production. "Romp is the word for the show. There are chase scenes, togas, and everything else you could want."
The lead role of Prologus, an actor, and Pseudolus, a slave to Hero, will be played by Trente Morant, a Bay Area actor who has appeared with the East Bay Symphony and the Oakland Ballet.
If you want to laugh your head off, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" is your show, said Harriet Schlader, managing director of Producers Associates, the group staging the summer musicals at Woodminster, and an Oakland hills resident. "It's one joke after another, which is why it's been a vehicle for some of the greatest comic actors of our time."
The show is directed by Harriet's son Joel Schlader, who lives in Alameda. Choreography is by Jon Gourdine, with music direction by Richard Vetterli
"I love the whole thing," said John Tichenor, who plays Hysterium (a slave to Senex and Domina) and divides his time between Piedmont and Los Angeles. "Once the story gets going, it's a real wacky vaudeville type of farce involving mistaken identities. For instance, I dress up as an ingénue with a wig and dress and pretend to be a dead body. It all works out in the end, and it's a perfectly delightful show."
Tichenor also performed at Woodminster in 1980, when the first Oakland hills summer production of "Forum" was staged. He was Protean, a role being played this year by his nephew Andrew Moorhead of Piedmont. "It's fun doing the show with him, of course," said Tichenor.
The preview show is Aug. 9; tickets are $12. For other nights, most kids 16 and under are free. Adult tickets are $27-$56 with discounts for children and seniors and half-price tickets for groups of 25 or more. Call 510-531-9597 or go to www.woodminster.com for more details.