Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Theater at the J's 'A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum'

Theater at the J, the resident theater company of The Roth Family JCC of Greater Orlando, will stage “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” from Oct. 15-25 in its Harriett & Hymen Lake Cultural Center Auditorium.

The Stephen Sondheim musical is a joyous romp through Rome that has desperate lovers, scheming neighbors and exposes the secrets behind every toga.

Director Kerry A. Giese selected this musical to follow Theater at the J’s successful spring launch with “Fiddler on the Roof” for several reasons.

“First, it is an early Stephen Sondheim piece and his music and lyrics are among the greatest Broadway has to offer. Second, I am a student of Vaudeville and the old Burlesque Theatre and Forum has its roots in that style. Third, I was introduced to Forum in college when my theatre department presented it and I fell in love with the show way back then.”

The original script of Forum was inspired by the works of the second century  B.C. comic playwright, Plautis, according to Giese. “It is farce at its most pure. It is gloriously free of serious moments. It is written to keep an audience laughing from the first note of the opening number, ‘Comedy Tonight,’ to the last bow of the curtain call.”

Theater at the J aims to feature theatrical works across the spectrum. While Forum, similar to “Fiddler on the Roof,” also features music by a Jewish composer, the tones of the shows could not be more different.

“I hope to take the audiences for Forum away from their day-to-day stress and tension and allow them an hour-and-a-half of complete fun and silliness,” Giese said.

Forum features Orlando theater veterans Emile Doles as Hero and Theresa Smith-Levin as Philia. The lead character of the show, Pseudolus, is played by Rabbi David Kay of Congregation Ohev Shalom.

“The opportunity to work with Kerry and Amanda Giese and the chance to sink my teeth into Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics and music were an irresistible combination,” said Kay. “It’s also a chance to be on stage with a cast of hard-working and talented actors, singers, and dancers. The movie adaptation of Forum was a favorite of my parents, too.”

Rabbi Kay encourages the Jewish community to support Theater at the J.

“It’s part of our heritage as American Jews. Not only were Jewish immigrants to the United States—and their children and grandchildren—a driving force in shaping the unique idiom of American musical theater, Jews have always been engaged in the development and support of the performing arts. Theater at the J revitalizes this vital part of Jewish identity and brings the best of its fruits as a gift to the central Florida community.”

Giese explains that the quality of the upcoming musical is of the utmost professionalism.

“As we rehearse, I am constantly amazed by the talents and abilities the members of this company possess. Their singing is better than many Broadway shows I have seen and the acting ability of these folks is through the roof. As a director, I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to bring Forum to life. I would put this production up against anything Broadway has to offer and I don’t say that lightly.”

For theatergoers needing one more reason to attend?  Just as Rabbi Kay.

“Where else do you get to see a rabbi run around and make a fool of himself for 90 minutes? Besides at services, I mean.”

Tickets to “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” are available at http://www.orlandojcc.org/theater. Readers of the Heritage can save $5 per ticket by using the discount code, FORUMHERITAGE. The JCC describes the musical as “rated PG-13.” For more information, contact boxoffice@orlandojcc.org or call 407-621-4044.


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