The Pasadena Theatre Company's production of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" is a spirited version of a spirited, funny show.
Set in ancient Rome, the comedy revolves around Pseudolus, a conniving slave out to win his freedom from the dysfunctional family that owns him. As Pseudolus attempts to free himself by uniting Hero, his lovesick teen-age owner, with Philia, the girl of the young lad's dreams, the stage explodes in a blast of craziness that features more screwballs per square inch than in any other musical written.
If "Forum" is to be done, it must be done with comic color and style, which the company accomplishes.
Lane Palmer is hysterical as the roguishly well-intentioned Pseudolus. His comic energy lights up the stage from start to finish.
Jerry Khatcheressian also is a riot as the appropriately named Hysterium, the family's chief slave who is driven to distraction by Pseudolus' scheming.
There were 50-odd people splitting their sides last Sunday afternoon at Baldwin Hall as Mr. Khatcheressian danced divinely across the stage in all his cross-dressed splendor to the strains of "I'm lovely. Absolutely lovely."
Senex and Domina, the unhappily married couple who own both slaves, are ably portrayed by Lawrence Goldstein and Ginger Roelse. Mr. Goldstein is especially funny when he joins Pseudolus, Hysterium and Lycus, the purveyor of desirable women played by Todd Cunningham, in the hilarious "Everybody Ought to Have a Maid."
Angelisa Proserpi and Mark Lewis make an attractive pair of lovers as Philia and Hero, though occasionally the pitches in their songs go a bit awry.
If there is a weakness in the production it is the somewhat variable musical talent of the principals.
My instincts tell me that some people were cast more for how they looked and read than for how they actually sounded vocally. Most of the time, the director got away with it. But Miles Gloriosus, played by Dave O'Brien, is supposed to have people cringing at his vanity, not at the sound of his singing voice.
Still, music director Chris Wells kept the trains running on time with real agility. She did wonders with what she had to work with.