"Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight!" With that song, one of the most famous opening numbers ever, the brilliant career of Stephen Sondheim as a Broadway composer and lyricist was born. Sondheim had written lyrics for the classics West Side Story and Gypsy, but he wanted to compose as well, and after 1954's Saturday Night was derailed, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962) gave him his first Broadway show. Based on the Roman comedies of Plautus, it's a light frothy entertainment (as promised in the opening) led by the outrageous Zero Mostel as the scheming slave Pseudolus. The Gordian knot of a plot also involves Jack Gilford as fellow slave Hysterium, Preshy Marker as the vacant Philia, Brian Davies as the young hero, Hero, and Ron Holgate as the testosterone-oozing soldier Miles Glorious. Sondheim the composer proves an ideal match for Sondheim the lyricist: you can hear halting uncertainty and not-yet-blossomed passion in "Love, I Hear," "I'm Calm" perfectly captures Hysterium's hysteria, and "Everybody Ought to Have a Maid" is pure vaudeville genius. --David Horiuchi
Similarly Requested CDs
Member CD Reviews
from LITTLE ROCK, AR
Reviewed on 8/7/2006...
A fun frolic with Zero Mostel. Just not my favorite musical.
0 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Byron Kolln | the corner where Broadway meets Hollywood | 02/06/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"After providing the libretto for the musicals "West Side Story" and "Gypsy", Stephen Sondheim decided to write both music and lyrics for his next project, which turned out to be A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, a raucous, musical comedy (with the emphasis on comedy) set in Ancient Rome, and featuring a book by Larry Gelbart and Burt Shevelove.
The original production opened on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre on May 8, 1962, and went on to run for 964 performances. The lead role of Pseudolus was originally earmarked for Milton Berle and Phil Silvers - for various reasons both were unavailable - and the part wound up going to Zero Mostel, who created one of his most well-remembered roles.
Brian Davies (fresh from playing Rolf in Broadway's "The Sound of Music") is a very well-sung Hero, nicely-partnered by Preshy Marker in the role of Philia. Their duet "Lovely" is adorable, and Marker's 11 o'clocker "That'll Show Him" is good value.
The colourful supporting cast included some big names on the Broadway musical comedy scene (Ruth Kobart, David Burns, Jack Gilford). John Carradine and Ronald Holgate (as the preening he-man Miles Gloriosus) add some fun to the numbers, too. Songs like "Comedy Tonight!", "Dirty Old Man", and "Everybody Ought to Have a Maid", are the kind of fall-down funny numbers that one seldom hears in musicals these days.
While ...FORUM established Stephen Sondheim as Broadway's "golden boy of the moment", his next big show, "Anyone Can Whistle", folded after only nine performances. In 1965, he decided to go back to doing the libretto for Richard Rodgers' "Do I Hear a Waltz?", only for it to be another middling failure. Success would come in the 1970s and 80s with a series of highly-stylised works (beginning with "Company").
Here in ...FORUM, you can hear Sondheim in full musical comedy mode, with a score that fairly bubbles with merriment and mirth.
[Angel Broadway/EMI 0777 7 64770 2 2]"
Fine show tunes from a classic Stephen Sondheim comedy
Matthew G. Sherwin | last seen screaming at Amazon customer service | 09/18/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum was Stephen Sondheim's first project for which he wrote both words and music--and it was a tremendous success. The tracks on this CD give us the musical numbers from the stage play performed by the original Broadway cast. Some numbers will amuse you more than others because you may not know the context in which they were performed; but many of these fine songs will entertain you anyway.
The track set begins with the "Overture." The arrangement makes great use of the horns, percussion and strings to create just the right atmosphere for the beginning of the play. Of course, the overture also ties together the themes from the major musical numbers from the play. Excellent! "Comedy Tonight," sung mostly by starring actor Zero Mostel who plays a slave scheming to earn his freedom, gains its humorous qualities in part because Zero Mostel just couldn't sing. Zero as the slave Pseudolus weaves his magic by performing the lyrics at a rapid tempo enhanced by the great arrangement. "Comedy Tonight" sports a great intro by the brass; and the backup chorus bolsters Zero's performance, too.
"Love, I Hear," performed by Brian Davies as Hero, lets Hero sing of how much he wants to find his one true love. Brian delivers "Love, I Hear" with great sensitivity. The strings and horns bolster the beauty of "Love, I Hear," too. "Free" is performed by Pseudolus and Hero as Hero promises Pseudolus his freedom from slavery if he can get Hero the young woman he loves, Philia.
"Everybody Ought To Have A Maid" truly does sport that vaudeville flavor as David Burns, Zero Mostel, Jack Gilford and John Carradine deliver this without missing a beat! The men sing of how they want to have a "maid" who would secretly be their lover. "Everybody Ought To Have A Maid" will make you laugh even if you know nothing about the plot--great! Listen for some great percussion, strings and flute on "Everybody Ought To Have A Maid." "I'm Calm" does indeed capture the panic attacks of Hysterium who is played by Jack Gilford. Jack's performance, which is not exactly the way Sinatra would croon it, becomes all the funnier because Jack can't sing, either!
"That'll Show Him" gives us another good number delivered by Preshy Marker as the beautiful but not too bright blonde Philia, loved by Hero but wanted by the remarkably brutal, macho warrior Miles Gloriosus (Ronald Holgate). "That'll Show Him" uses the percussion and drums very well. "The Funeral Sequence," although a great number, would be funnier still if you knew that this was a fake death of Philia so that she could be free from Miles Gloriosus and marry Hero.
The "Finale" sports another relentlessly upbeat melody as everything actually works out for the best; and the musical arrangement makes good use of the strings and brass. Great!
The liner notes offer great black and white photos from the actual stage play and Mark Kirkeby writes an extensive essay that really helps people understand the stage play so they can enjoy this CD even more! The artwork impresses me.
Overall, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum was an excellent stage play and these show tunes amply prove it. I highly recommend this CD for fans of Stephen Sondheim; and people who like show tunes will cherish this one for years to come.