Usually the scene-stealer in a supporting comedic role, the prodigious Omri Schein deservedly gets the lead role in the farcical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, the storied 1962 Broadway musical (and later a film) that closes North Coast Repertory Theatre’s 36th season. Schein plays Pseudolus, the Roman slave who is the instigator of every ruse, machination and hapless deceit in this no-holds-barred comedy. He remains hilarious even when the deadpanning and slapsticking gets redundant (which, eventually, they do).
The cast of 13 is the largest ever for a show at North Coast Rep in artistic director David Ellenstein’s 16-year tenure. Besides Schein, the Forum cast includes many familiar comic pros in San Diego theater including Andrew Ableson, David McBean and Melinda Gilb. After 56 years, Forum is rife with obvious antics, characters and situations, and Stephen Sondheim’s score is relatively serviceable beyond the classic “Comedy Tonight.” What we’re left with, bottom line, is vaudeville in togas. Nothing wrong with that if that’s what floats your Roman barge, and Schein’s worth the price of a ticket. (Review originally published in San Diego CityBeat on 7/18/18.)
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.