By Molly Grosskreutz
Have you ever heard of Vaudeville theatre? Think Marx brothers films, Charlie Chaplin, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. Now transfer those images onto Viterbo’s Fine Art Center’s main stage, mixed with colorful costumes, fabulous music, over-the-top feather fans and a severed head.
That’s just part of what you’ll experience at “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” Viterbo’s first main-stage student performance of the year. Director David Gardiner has chosen to focus on the Vaudeville aspects of the Tony Award-winning Stephen Sondheim musical, which is based on ancient Roman comedies.
The show runs the weekend of Oct. 12-14. Tickets are available in the box office or online.
The show revolves around a clever slave who desperately wants his freedom, but the plot is not necessarily why people ought to come. What Gardiner is excited about is that it is a sort of “musical experiment,” with a rich cast of stock characters interacting with one another. “You have your crazy goat man, your clever slave, pompous soldier, head-over-heels-in-love couple,” Gardiner said in an interview with Lumen. “It’s going to be a very colorful show. The costumes are colorful, the music is colorful, the acting is colorful.”
For Gardiner, the highlight of rehearsals so far has been working with the talented cast and crew. He’s happy to be working on this musical in particular because it gives acting students experience in comedic timing and farce. He thinks it’s a good experience for young actors since they will be doing similar types of shows early in their careers.
Senior theatre major Rachel Wahl is designing the props for the show. When Lumen asked her what people can expect to see, she nonchalantly responded, “A severed head, giant feathered dancing fans, a lot of luggage, gag props, rubber chickens…things of that nature.”
The most challenging obstacle for Wahl thus far has been making sure all the details on the props are made to scale. “It’s a big difference going from the black box scale to something much larger,” she explained. Among the props she is most excited about: lingerie that will hang on a line on stage.
Assistant Director and Assistant Choreographer Charlie Ward is excited to perform his role as the pompous soldier. “I can be crazy and loud and big; stuff you don’t really get to do in real life,” Ward said. As for the audience, “You should come with an open mind and ready to laugh.”