Brentwood Operatic at the Brentwood Theatre.
“It's nice to have something to laugh at, these days ...”. This appreciative audience member could doubtless have found an echo in Ancient Rome, where Plautus wrote the comedies which inspired Sondheim.
Against a backdrop of doors, alleys and a tiny balcony, the scheming slave Pseudolus, convincingly played by Sondheim veteran Patrick Tucker, seeks freedom for himself and a buxom bride for his soppy young master Hero [ Nick Townsend ]. Other stereotypes from the Latin were the old man Senex – John Washer in a moustache more Gaulish than Roman – and his mistress Domina – a very polished performance from Clare Markey.
The louche procurer Lycus was Stewart Porter, and the ditzy Philia Sarah Barton.
How nice to have almost identical Geminae [Hazel and Gemma Pithers] in the house with a richly characterized gaggle of courtesans including the noisy Tintinabula, played by Diana Baker. Hysterium, eunuch, slave-in-chief and connoisseur of erotic ceramics – mucky pots – was brilliantly brought to life in an energetic and engaging performance by Martin Harris, nicely matched by Gareth Barton's cocky Miles Gloriosus.
Ian Southgate and his band brought out the best in Sondheim's patchy score: the cod “Lovely” and the vaudeville “Maid”.
Though the pace could sometimes have been sharper, the delivery further over the top, Jeff Barnett's production, with choreography by Sarah O'Sullivan, was an agreeable reminder of this unique musical farce.