Sondheim, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Tragedy last Friday, comedy tonight… at the Volksoper.
A new production of Sondheim’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum… in German. I don’t have a problem with the language choice, since Sondheim reworked into English plots and characters from Plautus (which I read in the original Latin), who had in turn borrowed from Greek predecessors. What’s important is that the cast can act and is having fun. So it was indeed a fun production, headed by Robert Meyer as Pseudolus, with David Levi conducting.
That said, I’ve seen better. I still remember a fun production at Exeter with my talented classmate Rob Bikel playing Pseudolus. And, of course, there is the film starring Zero Mostel. The acting tonight may have been better than the singing – the fact that they miked the cast was already suspicious, since the Volksoper is not an overly large house and there is no excuse for singers not to be able to project. Miked music is always disconcerting. My other gripe was the German they used, which was very… well, German. Written German, as a spoken language, comes across as unattractive, arrogant, and humorless. Perhaps Miles Gloriosus could speak that way, but the rest of the cast should have been performing in spoken dialect, or at least something softer. Plautus himself used dialect in his original Latin farces, so this would have been more in character if they had kept to it.
But tonight was still a good evening’s entertainment, so I’m not complaining. And after the travesty at the Volksoper with Madama Butterfly last Friday, the house had to redeem itself.