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Join us Saturday for ‘A Funny Thing…’

Light-hearted, fast-paced, witty, irreverent and one of the funniest musicals ever written, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” comes to the Natchez City Auditorium at 7 p.m. Saturday and is presented by the Natchez Festival of Music, “We shall employ every device we know in our desire to divert you!”

Steven Sondheim’s hysterical Roman romp is chock-full of absurdity, desperate lovers, scheming neighbors, cross dressers, mistaken identity, love, lust, pride, shame and secrets behind every toga.

Our cast of capricious characters will dazzle you with wit, charm and flair. Discover exactly what funny things happen when Pseudolus the Machiavellian manipulator; Senex, a superciliously superfluous Roman Senator; Domina, the pernicious Dominatrix; Hero, the wide-eyed…. well… hero; Philia, a radiantly vacant Virgin; Miles Gloriosus, the pompously dreamy Captain; Lycus, the lasciviously self-proclaimed “Buyer and Seller of Flesh;” and Hysterium, the hysterically flamboyant idealist collide.

“The show’s opening number ‘Something for everyone, a comedy tonight!’ sums up the spectacle in a nutshell,” said director and native Natchezian, Landon Henry. In his professional directing debut, Henry said, “I have worked to find every moment in the show that I possibly can to distract people from reality. We want our audience to leave their worries and cares behind as we bring them to a place of fun and of laughter so hard it hurts.”

No stranger to the stage, Henry has been extensively involved with the Natchez Little Theater having appeared in over 40 productions and directed their production of “The Wizard of Oz” in 2009.

His enthusiasm and passion for directing is palpable. “I mean, this show is just ridiculous! The cast, the crew, the audience: I want everybody to have fun. With every rehearsal, spoken line, song, acting cue, set design, light design… really every direction given, I’ve told everyone just to have fun and make it as fabulous as you want it to be — to be whatever and whoever they want.”

Henry has really encouraged his cast to embrace fully their characters seizing every opportunity to experiment on stage. Sitting down with him, I wanted to pick his brain a little about the cast.

Q: So tell us about these crazy characters.

A: First there’s Pseudolus, a slave of the Roman Senator Senex, who’s basically doing everything he can to gain his freedom — mostly by manipulating anyone and everyone. Now in the script, or at least in my show, Senex is really interesting. Matthew Maisano has really made him unique and just went with it. Senex hasn’t had sex in 29 years and ends up falling for the same girl as his son! He wants to be the guy in control.

Q: And who would you say is your favorite character?

A: Well that’s hard because I love them all. But I guess it would have to be Domina who’s the wife of Senex. She’s a brassy woman with important … needs, know what I mean? And she gets them despite not having the same rights as the men. She’s constantly shattering Senex’s illusion of control — a twister leaving destruction in her path every time she’s on stage.

Q: But didn’t you say that Senex is falling in love with the same love interest of his son?

A: Exactly! And now you see the predicament.

Q: So who is this girl everyone is after?

A: That is Philia, a virgin courtesan belonging to Lycus who calls himself “a buyer and seller of flesh.” Philia was taught beauty and grace, but not much else. Although, she’s in love with Hero, Senex’s son, she’s bound by her duty to honor her contracted arrangement to Captain Miles Gloriosus.

Q: Sounds complicated….

A: No, it’s just absolutely hysterical. The audience will love it!

Q: Anyone else we should look out for?

A: You do not want to miss Corey Trahan playing Hysterium! You may remember he played Madame Armfeldt in last year’s “A Little Night Music?” And as always, a surprise appearance by local favorite, Rusty Jenkins.

Come, be ridiculous with us this Saturday, May 18th, at 7 p.m. in the Natchez City Auditorium. May the gods be with you!

Stacey Trenteseaux is production manager for the Natchez Festival of Music.

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