Throughout her long and prolific theatrical life, Amy Spalding-Heuring has been followed by the specters of Pseudolus, Marcus Lycus and the other characters from Stephen Sondheim’s legendary 1962 musical “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”
Spalding-Heuring grew up in Northwest Ohio and, as a youngster, sang the show’s most famous song, “Comedy Tonight,” in a community theater show produced by her mother and grandmother. While in college, she performed it again as part of a Sondheim revue. When she was in her early 20’s, Amy directed veteran area performer Darlene Garand in the Oregon Community Theatre’s first musical, “The Music Man”.
“(Donna Garand) played Domina in the Rep’s production [of ‘Forum’] in the early 80s,” Spalding-Huering explains, “And (Donna related), that was one of the pinnacles of her career as a community theater actress. It was the greatest show she had ever done. I heard that over and over again while I was directing.”
When word came that the Toledo Rep was again planning to stage “Forum” in 2017, Spalding-Heuring jumped at the chance to helm it. The classic musical-farce will take to the Rep’s stage beginning June 2.
“I think the key to its staying power is the humor,” Spalding-Heuring said. “It’s a musical with classic humor. It’s got the hidden identities, it’s got Pseudolus, the slave, who one-ups everyone, it’s got boy-meets-girl — or courtesan — boy falls in love with courtesan, boy loses courtesan to father, gets her back. And also just the fact that it is so fast-paced. The cast themselves leave a rehearsal laughing.”
Pace has proven to be the biggest challenge for the actors leading up to the show’s premiere. Spalding-Heuring noted how her cast has worked tirelessly in rehearsals to get the timing down for the show’s complicated farcical moments, including its climactic chase scene.
Much of the show’s humor and timing centers on the role of Pseudolus, the slave attempting to win freedom. The character doubles as the narrator who communicates with the audience directly. Spalding-Heuring noted how she kept an open mind on the type of actor she would cast for the role.
“We had several capable ‘Pseudoli’ audition. And Lane Hakel, who plays Pseudolus, certainly fit the bill. He’s very, very funny, he’s very kind, and that comes across in the character.”
Something For Everyone
As Repertoire audiences take in some “Comedy Tonight” beginning June 2, Spalding-Heuring’s thoughts turn again to Darlene Garand, who passed away in 2012.
“For me, this is truly a labor of love. Hopefully Darlene will watch it in Heaven and look at it and say, ‘You know Amy, you did just fine.’”
“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” will run at the Toledo Repertoire from June 2 through June 18. Tickets are $25 for adults, with reduced rates for seniors and students. For more information, visit toledorep.org.