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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film

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TotallyEffed
#1A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film
Posted: 7/8/24 at 11:22am

I am ashamed to admit it, but I've never seen a production of Funny Thing. I've been waiting patiently for a revival and it seems like it must be due any season now. I am not familiar with the show or the score and I'm sick of waiting! What is a good way to get into this show? Is the film worth watching? Would love your thoughts.

JSquared2
#2A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film
Posted: 7/8/24 at 11:31am

The film is pretty terrible -- but still worth watching for the performances of Zero Mostel, Jack Gilford and Phil Silvers.  They cut most of the songs.

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BrodyFosse123
#3A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film
Posted: 7/8/24 at 11:35am

Though the 1966 film adaptation does have Zero Mostel and Jack Gilford reprising their original Broadway cast roles, the film is heavily truncated and a large part of the Broadway score was cut. Watch it to get some exposure to the show but take it with a grain of salt as the film is just a hint of the stage production. 


MidWestTheater
#4A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film
Posted: 7/8/24 at 11:39am

Yeah.. the film is not great. They cut quite a bit of the score.  I was lucky enough to see the Jerry Zaks production from the 90's with Nathan Lane, which was pure comedy heaven..however, the show is of it's time. There is a production being done at Signature Theater in DC, in the fall. 

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TotallyEffed
#5A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film
Posted: 7/8/24 at 11:42am

MidWestTheater said: "Yeah.. the film is not great. They cut quite a bit of the score.I was lucky enough to see the Jerry Zaks production from the 90's with Nathan Lane, which was pure comedy heaven..however, the show is of its time. There is a production being done at Signature Theater in DC, in the fall."

 

I just watched a clip on YouTube. Maybe my best bet is going to the library and watching that production.

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ErmengardeStopSniveling
#6A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film
Posted: 7/8/24 at 11:46am

I have a general FORUM question

Was the "House of Marcus Lycus" that Ernie Sabella sings on the 90s cast album written for that revival? Or a trimmed song that was reinstated? It's not on the original cast album or in the film, but I don't remember if it was in a licensed stage production I saw a few years back.

ChiDoc
#7A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film
Posted: 7/8/24 at 11:54am

ErmengardeStopSniveling said: "I have a general FORUM question

Was the "House of Marcus Lycus" that Ernie Sabella sings on the 90s cast album written for that revival? Or a trimmed song that was reinstated? It's not on the original cast album or in the film, butI don't remember if it was in a licensed stage production I saw a few years back.
"

It was in the original production, but for album length, it was not recorded for the original cast album (per my recollection).

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Broadway Flash
#8A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film
Posted: 7/8/24 at 11:57am

The piece is not funny.  The jokes don’t land anymore, it needs a refresh.  I’ve seen a few productions of Forum, and every time I’ve seen it, all the dance break music has been different in House of Marcus Lycus.  I’ve never seen a production of Follies before, and I hope they do a big Little Night music soon.  The rumor is that Marianne Elliot is going to take on Sunday in the Park with George starring Andrew Garfield. 

rattleNwoolypenguin
#9A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film
Posted: 7/8/24 at 12:32pm

I don’t think the film is awful. It’s just very much its own weird late 60’s thing. You have to divorce it from the musical.

It’s directed by the guy who made those trippy aimless Beatles movies and you can tell.

The actual stage musical is 10/10 farce and we’ve never matched it with another comedy musical libretto since. (Into the Woods and Gentlemen’s Guide came close) 

You can argue all you want that certain things don’t hold up, but its entire intention is to be an Ancient Greek comedy and it succeeds.

the best thing to do is see a local community theatre do it or a college cause then you’ll see why it’s fun on its feet. Even when a production is bad you can see why it’s one of our strongest librettos.

Sondheim’s score works sometimes and sometimes it really doesn’t. It’s fine. But listening to the cast recording won’t give you an idea why the show is good at ALL.

this show is the book.

 

Updated On: 7/8/24 at 12:32 PM

rattleNwoolypenguin
#10A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film
Posted: 7/8/24 at 12:35pm

One of the book co writers wrote Tootsie.

 

so it is actively funny

JSquared2
#11A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film
Posted: 7/8/24 at 12:49pm

There was also a very well-received all male production done at Williamstown that was directed by Jessica Stone (and starred her husband, Chris Fitzgerald as Pseudolus) that was heavily rumored to transfer to NYC.  The cast also included Bryce Pinkham, David Turner, Kevin Cahoon and Josh Grisetti. It would be great to see that one come back to life (now that Jessica is a hot A-list director).

https://wtfestival.org/main-events/funny-thing-happened-on-the-way-to-the-forum-a-3/

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ErmengardeStopSniveling
#12A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film
Posted: 7/8/24 at 12:49pm

I think there are very, very funny elements, and things that a great musical comedy director and a skillful cast of clowns can bring to it

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Broadway Flash
#13A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film
Posted: 7/8/24 at 1:12pm

The way to do it is to not shy away from the misogyny.  You’ve got the shrill wife, the dumb blonde, and the prostitutes being sold to the men.  The funny moments are when it’s not PC.  the dirty men are objectifying the women literally the entire time; trying to buy them, sleep with them, marry them.  You’ve also got the slave trying to get his freedom.  If you’re soft, this is not the show for you.  I wouldn’t want to see this nonsense where they try to make the women look strong and in control like they’ve been doing to kiss me Kate.  It’s just fighting the material. 

JSquared2
#14A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film
Posted: 7/8/24 at 1:14pm

Broadway Flash said: "The way to do it is to not shy away from the misogyny. You’ve got the shrill wife, the dumb blonde, and the prostitutes being sold to the men. The funny moments are when it’s not PC.the dirty men are objectifying the women literally the entire time; trying to buy them, sleep with them, marry them. You’ve also got the slave trying to get his freedom. If you’re soft, this is not the show for you. I wouldn’t want to see this nonsense where they try to makethe women look strong and in controllike they’ve been doing to kiss me Kate. It’s just fighting the material."

 

 

OK.  Sir, this is a Wendy's.

 

Updated On: 7/8/24 at 01:14 PM

rattleNwoolypenguin
#15A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film
Posted: 7/8/24 at 1:36pm

ErmengardeStopSniveling said: "I think there are very, very funny elements, and things that a great musical comedy director and a skillful cast of clowns can bring to it"

Exactly this. You can make a meal out of these roles and still have great one liners.

And it’s a fast fast moving show which is also great

rattleNwoolypenguin
#16A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film
Posted: 7/8/24 at 1:41pm

The other defense I have of the movie is proscenium farce doesn’t translate THAT great on film. The direction is meant to be stagey. It’s meant to be live.
 

So I kinda understand the thinking behind “let’s swing in the other direction and have a parody of Ben Hur.”

Forum would be a great pro shot musical.

As for gutting Sondheim’s score- half the score is vaudeville numbers that break the action so I don’t really miss what was cut. 

ChiDoc
#17A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film
Posted: 7/8/24 at 1:53pm

Sure, the book of Forum is dated in its casual sexism, but it's not like the male characters are contrastingly any better.  Hero is as dopey as Philia, Senex is a dirty old man, and so on.  A production also doesn't need the women of the House of Marcus Lycus in completely skimpy clothing, either.  So I think Forum absolutely still works in a good production, even if its 60s sensibilities are apparent.

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MichelleCraig
#18A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film
Posted: 7/8/24 at 1:57pm

I ended up seeing the revival twice, initially with Nathan Lane and a second time with Whoopi Goldberg. The second time was with some work colleagues who invited me and had “expensed” the tickets. At the time, I would not have paid to see the show a second time. I had fun seeing it both times, but nothing about it stayed with me.

As somewhat of a Sondheim completist, I bought the movie on Blu-ray when it was first released about 10 years ago. I have never been able to get through it. I just pulled it off the shelf and may give it another try this week.

The 1996 revival gave us a cast album, but it is not available to stream anywhere.

 

 

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Kad
#19A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film
Posted: 7/8/24 at 2:23pm

The movie is a slog. I'm not sure it's as bad as Night Music, but it's down there and at least Night Music has the score going for it.

Forum is odd amongst the Sondheim canon. It's the only show of his where the book and score don't really work in harmony. The book is fast-paced farce and Sondheim just wasn't particularly well-suited to do that. The songs hit the brakes when the show needs to be hitting the gas; and, of course, Sondheim was never a very funny songwriter. Infinitely clever, absolutely. The songs in Forum are bursting with wordplay, irony, reversals, and other comedic tropes, but they're ultimately more clever than funny. Compare to the book, which is a dream for a bunch of skilled comedic performers.

I've never seen a professional production, just community theatre and... well, it can be dire if you don't have good performers, let's say that.

It's definitely a little dated but I give Sondheim, Bert Shevelove, and Larry Gelbart some credit for realizing, even then, that the women couldn't just be objects. Philia is given some agency and Domina is given some depth. Not a ton, mind you- this a show of stock characters- but enough shading. In true Sondheim style, the songs are where the character's anxieties come to the forefront.


"...everyone finally shut up, and the audience could enjoy the beginning of the Anatevka Pogram in peace."
Updated On: 7/8/24 at 02:23 PM

Jarethan
#20A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film
Posted: 7/8/24 at 2:23pm

I agree with a lot of the criticism.  I saw the revivals with Phil Silvers and Nathan Lane and loved them both.  This was a musical comedy where the music was the worst part of the show.  Comedy Tonight and Everybody Oughta Have a Maid are the only songs that I felt I’d ever want to hear again.   A number of songs were comical, e.g., Lovely and I, Miles Gloriosis, but there were too many of them.  IMO Richard Lester’s direction was awful, but I am not sure that it is filmable.  Pro-shot would be the way to go.

enjoyment of the show is about the book, the direction, and the leading performances.  

BentleyB
#21A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film
Posted: 7/8/24 at 5:41pm

Having been in the show on four different occasions and having seen professional productions (Nathan Lane was amazing) and amateur ones, it really is the director who can make the show come to life.  It is a bump and grind vaudeville show.  I agree the songs slow the show down, but they also allow the audience to catch their breath from the frantic pace of everything going on.  I love the show and would love to see a revival with Josh Gad and Andrew Randell’s.  The movie is just so awful in my opinion and never really gives the sense of what the show is live. 

Owen22
#22A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film
Posted: 7/8/24 at 7:26pm

BentleyB said: "Having been in the show on four different occasions and having seen professional productions (Nathan Lane was amazing) and amateur ones, it really is the director who can make the show come to life. It is a bump and grind vaudeville show. I agree the songs slow the show down, but they also allow the audience to catch their breath from the frantic pace of everything going on. I love the show and would love to see a revival with Josh Gad and Andrew Randell’s. The movie is just so awful in my opinion and never really gives the sense of what the show is live."

Well, that would have been a tremendous choice over Guttenberg!!  Was that ever considered?

And I agree. The mild misogyny in the show should be leaned into!  There is also some mild homophobic dialogue and I would actually be insulted if they didn't leave that in as well!

The Other One
#23A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film
Posted: 7/9/24 at 7:14am

rattleNwoolypenguin said: "I don’t think the film is awful. It’s just very much its own weird late 60’s thing. You have to divorce it from the musical.

It’s directed by the guy who made those trippy aimless Beatles movies and you can tell.

The actual stage musical is 10/10 farce and we’ve never matched it with another comedy musical libretto since. (Into the Woods and Gentlemen’s Guide came close)

You can argue all you want that certain things don’t hold up, but its entire intention is to be an Ancient Greek comedy and it succeeds.

the best thing to do is see a local community theatre do it or a college cause then you’ll see why it’s fun on its feet. Even when a production is bad you can see why it’s one of our strongestlibrettos.

Sondheim’s score works sometimes and sometimes it really doesn’t. It’s fine. But listening to the cast recording won’t give you an idea why the show is good at ALL.

this show is the book.
"

I agree with every word of this.  I got to see the 1972 revival with Phil Silvers and Larry Blyden, who both won well-deserved Tony Awards. It remains the funniest two and a half hours I have ever spent in a theatre.  There were some changes to the score, but as rattleNwoolypenguin (really?!) says, the score is not the thing with "Forum" and it never has been.  "This show is the book."

How I wish THAT production had been filmed!

Going off-topic a bit, I felt that with "Here We Are" Sondheim came full circle to where he began with "Forum" in writing a fine score that served a superior book.  I don't think you can say that about any of the shows he composed in between.

 

The Other One
#24A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film
Posted: 7/9/24 at 7:49am

"I love the show and would love to see a revival with Josh Gad and Andrew Randells."

What an idea!  They would have a great time and so would everyone watching.

CJRochester
#25A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum film
Posted: 7/9/24 at 9:17am

I love the idea of Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells. At first I assumed Rannells as Pseudolus and Gad as Hysterium, but I could see it working both ways.


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