O'Reilly Theater production promises 'night of belly laughs'
We all need laughter in our lives.
That's one of the reasons actor Jimmy Kieffer wanted to be in Pittsburgh Public Theater's production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”
“I just want opening night it to be a night full of belly laughs for people,” says Kieffer, of New York, who plays the slave Pseudolus. “With all that is happening in this world, this production can be a good distraction.”
The show runs Jan. 25 to Feb. 25 at the O'Reilly Theater.
The musical comedy, which debuted in 1962, features music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart and direction and choreography by Ted Pappas.
Pappas first staged this show 20 years ago as a guest director. He has chosen it as the last musical he will direct as the company's producing artistic director.
“Everyone is looking for a good laugh these days,” Pappas says in a news release. “and no musical provides more belly laughs, line for line, than Forum.”
To create their sly mix of Broadway and burlesque, Shevelove and Gelbart tapped the archives of ancient Roman funnyman Plautus, the father of contemporary farce. The plot includes mistaken identity, pratfalls, innuendo, cross-dressing, double takes and punchy punch lines.
Returning for this production is musical director F. Wade Russo, who will conduct a live orchestra.
The story revolves around Pseudolus who is promised his freedom if he can help his master Hero (James Nanthakumar) to woo the virgin Philia (Mary Elizabeth Drake).
Kieffer says he loves that he is performing in Pittsburgh because he's Steelers fan, having attended a few games this season. “I love this city,” he says.
He says comedy is his forte, especially after his last job.
“That show was very serious and was long, running for months,” he says. “I just wanted to go and make people laugh.”
“This show is a challenge,” Kieffer says. “There is a lot of mistaken identity and lots of tricking people that goes on trying to convince her to go out with Hero. She has been promised to another man, so there is that to deal with too.”
This role is one of the great comedic roles, Kieffer says. Great actors have played it on Broadway and won Tony awards, including Nathan Lane.
Being part of Pappas' last season is special, too, says Kieffer, who has worked with him in the past.
“I am extremely honored to do this show,” Kieffer says. “He is one of the best.”