When a show opens with a song promising "something for everyone/comedy tonight," you know it could go one of two ways: a disappointing flop or the thespians make good. While I can't speak for everybody, I know the cast of "Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Forum" at Ovation Theatre certainly employed every device they knew in their desire to divert me.
It's not hard to believe that director Jennifer Resolme laughed her way through dress rehearsals. From the aforementioned opening number through to the promised happy ending, this show had a kinetic energy that might make audiences wonder how many calories were burned in the presentation of this production.
Don't try to slap a Fitbit on Jason McClain. As Pseudolus, the house slave that drives the events in this farce, he is a nonstop ball of charisma. If this seems like excess praise, consider that he's on stage for much of the show, either front and center or working just behind the scenes.
He finds his frenetic match in Tyler Vernon, who plays fellow slave and schemer Hysterium. Some of the show's best moments are when the pair are plotting how to accomplish both their aims. The "Lovely" reprise, in which Hysterium is meant to pose as the dead courtesan Philia (played with grace and joyful naivete by Princess Pellett), is a standout moment for McClain and Vernon.
The opening night crowd clearly served as cheering squad for the home team of the Proteans — played by Eli Castillo, Aidan Cline and Jordan Fulmer — but the attention was warranted. As slaves, soldiers, eunuchs or citizens, the trio gave it their all, with acrobatics and comedic timing. If there is another show with a similar utility player cast unit, someone should get these guys in those roles.
In a show of high comedy, it might be easier to overlook the other elements such as dance but choreographer Natalia Mallory did an outstanding job. The opening and closing numbers featuring the entire cast can't have been easy to stage but each moment was fluid. The numbers featuring all the courtesans — Erica Lynn, Amanda Harmon, Lacey Lindsley, Sara Gervais and Danielle Chase and Abigail Resolme — notably "The House of Marcus Lycus," shined a spotlight on the cast's dance skills.
There was not a weak link in this cast, which runs the gamut from the suave Marcus Lycus (Mason Edwards) to the love-struck Hero (Dominic Demay) and his parents: the beleaguered Senex (Adam Fernandez) and shrewish but misunderstood Domina (Ariel Clark).
The show runs through Sept. 16 at Ovation Theatre.