Arts and Culture / Magazine Feature

Music, theater students join forces for bawdy Sondheim musical

DU’s Department of Theatre and Lamont School of Music are traveling to ancient Rome for their annual collaboration, teaming up to perform Stephen Sondheim’s musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum March 3–7.

In the early 1960s, long before he became world famous for songs like “Send in the Clowns” and musicals like Sweeney Todd, Sondheim penned the sex farce about a slave trying to win his freedom by aiding his master in his quest for love. In the DU production, songs like “Comedy Tonight” and “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid” will be backed by a six-piece orchestra made up of Lamont students.

“I really enjoy this show because of the nature of it being a farce, and the energy,” says director Nick Sugar. “It takes place in one day so it’s very fast-paced, there’s a lot of vaudeville style. It’s a comedy, there’s not a lot of heavy drama to it. It’s a chance to explore a lot of comic skills and it’s a lot of fun. It’s really bawdy, a lot of sexual innuendo, which is great for college.”

Sugar, a Denver-based director who has worked everywhere from the Arvada Center to the Aurora Fox Theater, was hired by DU to direct Forum. He says working with students is a refreshing change of pace.

“It’s a different kind of energy,” he says. “It’s a passion and a hunger to learn more and do more on top of everything else. Some of these kids are double majors or have a major and minor. This is a nine-week commitment, and they’re there [rehearsing] most every evening.

“They’re hungry to learn, and they want information on what it’s like to be working out in the real world as well. It’s an educational environment, so you’re not only creating a show, you’re teaching new skills.”

Some of those skills aren’t exactly new for Elliot Clough, who plays the lead role in Forum — the slave Pseudolus. Clough, who grew up in Denver, performed with a handful of community theater groups before coming to DU. He’s even done Forum before, in a production by the Wolf Theatre Academy at Denver’s Mizel Arts & Culture Center.

“It was more of a teen production. A few of the lines were cut and a lot of the bawdiness was played down, whereas in college now it’s all played up entirely,” says Clough, a freshman double major in theater and biology. “[The DU production is] a bit bawdier, it’s a bit more risqué — but it’s definitely funnier too.”

Some musicals delve into social problems, others into issues of politics, religion and education, but Forum is just good fun, Clough says — the kind of show that makes you forget your troubles for a couple of hours.

“I just want people to have a great time,” he says. “It’s pure entertainment — it’s lots of great wit and satire and all kinds of funny stuff. If we make people laugh the whole time and they really enjoy themselves, I think we’ve done what we want to do with the show.”

Performances of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum are at 8 p.m. March 3, 4, 5 and 6 and 2 p.m. March 6 and 7 in the Elizabeth Ericksen Byron Flexible Theatre in the Newman Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $15–$25; call 303-871-7720.


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