A look back at when ACT produced the show 26 years ago

Published 9:04 am Saturday, April 25, 2009

Back in MCMLXXXIII (1983), the Albert Lea Community Theatre presented the musical-comedy, “A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To the Forum.” Now, exactly XXVI (26) years later, in MMIX (2009), ACT is again presenting this play based on a wild aspect of life in ancient Rome.

Rory Mattson, who was the director of this play XXVI (26) years ago, said it was his first musical production. However, up to this time he had been involved with XXVII (27) Albert Lea Community Theatre (ACT) plays as an actor or part of the production staff. The Forum play was the VII (seventh) one he directed and the III (third) performance presented in the present theater.

“It was cool to direct a play which had been written 2,000 years ago, “ Mattson said.

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He explained that the original concept for this play was based on a story and comic Roman street play created by Ploutous the Elder about CI (101) years B.C. The present play script was written by Larry Gelbart and Burt Shevelove with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

Mattson point out that Gelbart also created the concept for the film and television series named “M*A*S*H*.”

A check with the listings for the cast and production staff for both productions shows there’s one name which is repeated. It’s the choreographer, Joyce Matthies.

“She’s been a solid contributor to ACT through the years with her top notch talents,” Mattson said.

Mary Newgard was the Tribune’s family life editor when this first production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” was presented at what was then called the Albert Lea Civic Theatre. In her review of the play published in the Tribune’s May 1, 1983, edition, she said, “ACT’s performance of ‘Forum’ is truly a comedic success.”

One of Newgard’s comments about this play was, “The comedy, directed by Rory Mattson is a bawdy show that borrows heavily from Shakespeare’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ with a plot woven of mistaken identities, lost children, magic potions and humor.”

Kevin Sweeney had a leading role in this particular play, portraying Pseudolus. He was at that time the Tribune’s city editor and is now editor of the New Ulm Journal.