When in Rome … act! | AspenTimes.com

When in Rome … act!

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

ASPEN – The Aspen High School drama department will stage the award-winning play “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” at 7 p.m. today and the next two nights at the Aspen District Theatre.Perhaps one of the funniest musicals ever to play Broadway, it features music by Stephen Sondheim, and a script by Larry Gelbart (a creator of the hit TV show “M*A*S*H”) and Burt Shevelove.Set in ancient Rome, it opened on Broadway in 1962, ran for nearly 1,000 performances and won five Tony Awards in 1963, including Best Musical.

The AHS production features Andy MacCracken as Pseudolus (a part Zero Mostel made famous in the Broadway production) portraying a slave who tries to win his freedom by helping his young master, Hero (Charles Sailor), woo the beautiful courtesan Philia (Whitney Mufson).The cast of characters features such names as Hysterium, a household slave (Tim Beirne), Erronius, an elderly neighbor searching for his long-lost children (Paul Jung), and Captain Miles Gloriosus, “a pompous and egotistical soldier to whom Philia is promised” (Aaron Poh).A series of miscues, deceptions, mistaken identities and other mishaps lead the audience down the path of merriment, but the happy ending is laced with irony and complications.The play’s director and choreographer is Marisa Post; Marnie White is production manager, and Sue Wasienko is the musical director.

White teaches music (K-4), and music and theater integration (K-12), in which she works with other teachers to incorporate music and theater into the regular curriculum. She said there are 42 cast members (from grades 9-12) and 15 on the stage crew.The action takes place on a two-story set, which White said is unusual for local school productions. The production had to borrow some elements from other schools or the Aspen Community Theater production company.The play, which White conceded is “more adult” than most productions the drama department stages, was chosen “because we wanted our kids to have a well-rounded theatrical experience.” She acknowledged some of the language in the play had to be censored in keeping with a directive from an unnamed source (see related story).But she defended the choice on a couple of grounds.

The first, she said, was that “we have an amazing group of dancers this year,” and the play calls for six dance solos to highlight the students’ talents, as well as several group numbers. And, she said, it’s all “ballet-based.”In addition, White said, the score of the play contains “incredibly challenging music” for the singers onstage as well as for the musicians in the orchestra pit – a seven-piece band made up of three students and four adults. White called the music “very harp-heavy.”Tickets for the play are $10 for adults and $8 for students, and will be available at the door. Tickets are available in advance at the District Theatre Box Office, by calling 925-3760, ext. 3230, or by visiting http://www.aspenk12.net/theatre.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com

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