Civic Light Opera Company puts on good show

Stephen Sondheim has always claimed that melodrama and farce are his two favourite forms of theatre. Surprisingly, the only farce he set to music is the 1962 Tony Award winner A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

The Civic Light Opera Company is presenting Forum as their final musical of the 2005-2006 season at Fairview Library Theatre. This madcap musical, drawing on all the stock characters of the roman comedies of Plautus, was devised for a scenario for vaudevillians by authors Larry Gelbart and Burt Shevelove.

Here, it affords David Haines a chance to give the kind of broad comic portrayal in which he excels. On stage for virtually the entire show, Haines pours such enthusiasm into the role that it can't help but energize the rest of the talented troupe.

Among them is Clinton Somerton as the frenzied slave Hysterium, a perfect foil for Haines. The two make the second act reprise of the duet Lovely into a scene of pure lunacy.

Broadcaster David Lennick makes an impressive stage debut as the henpecked husband Senex trying desperately to arrange a dalliance under the watchful eye of his shrewish wife Domina, played here by Louise Cascone.

As their teenaged son, Hero, Scotty Newlands is given a chance to display his wonderful singing voice as well as his flair for comedy. The object of his affection is Philia, played with a light, slightly daffy charm by Kelly Saunders.

Joe Cascone portrays the vainglorious Captain Miles Gloriosus with the proper self-centred egotism. Cascone also directed the show with tight precision, designed the show's masterful set and amusing costumes and has written the detailed and fascinating program notes that have become one of the hallmarks of Civic Light Opera Company productions.

He is greatly assisted by lighting designer Greg Poulin who has managed to find a way to keep the stage awash in colour and light, and by musical director Liane Fainsinger. She keeps the six-piece ensemble in perfect balance with the singers letting Sondheim's devilishly clever lyrics come through with clarity.

The best thing about Forum is that fact that no matter how many times you may have seen it before, the performers always bring something new to the proceedings. That plus the plot has so many twists and turns that it always seems fresh, and as promised in the opening number we do get a happy ending. Of course.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum continues at the Fairview Library Theatre, 35 Fairview Mall Dr., until June 11. Evening performances are Wednesdays at 7 p.m., Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $20 available at or by calling 416-755-1717.

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