Pec Playhouse kicks off 15th season Feb. 10

Tickets are on sale for the Pec Playhouse Theatre production of the first show of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, the first of five shows in Pec Playhouse Theatre’s 15th season.

The play, written by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart and featuring the music of Stephen Sondheim, won eight Tony Awards when it premiered in 1963, including one for Best Musical.

Gelbart is best known for his work in writing the hits M*A*S*H and City of Angels. This colorful new production is a madcap blend of Roman comedy and vaudeville, with masters, slaves, dancing girls, and the Roman Army.

The cast includes longtime Rockford actors Jim Crow and Jack Newton, both of whom have previous experience at the venue.

Crow, a well-known area performer, director and theater educator, previously has conducted several summer Childrens’ Theatre Camps at Pec Playhouse. In this production, he appears on their stage for the first time as the leading comedy character Hysterium, a slave to the wealthy but henpecked Roman aristocrat, Senex. It is the third time Crow has performed the role in a production of Forum. As the name implies, the role of Hysterium is the perfect foil for comedy, and Crow relishes it.

The aristocratic Senex is performed by Jack Newton, reprising the role since performing it in Starlight Theater’s production of Forum. An oft-seen musical comedy favorite who has appeared numerous times on both stages, his previous appearance at Pec Playhouse was in the Jeff Daniels comedy Escanaba in da Moonlight as folksy “Yooper” Albert Soady. Newton also makes appearances in productions at Beloit Civic Theatre.

The cast also features some of the area’s young talent in several major roles. Steven Johnson, who has appeared with New American Theater, takes the lead with the young “Hero,” playing opposite Hononegah High School’s Emily Rasmussen as his lovely Philia. Auburn High School’s Scott Dibley does double duty as the show’s opening singer, Prologus, as well as understudy to the lead comic role of Pseudolus (played by Zero Mostel in the famous film version).

Charley Schweindler of Durand High School is hilarious as Marcus Lycus, the “purveyor of slave girls,” playing side-by-side with his own high school music director, Allen Stevens, who leads the farce in the role of Pseudolus.

Performances are Fridays through Sundays, Feb. 10-19, with evening shows Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and afternoon matinees Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 for all seats, and are available at German-American State Bank in Pecatonica during normal business hours, or by calling the Box Office at 815-239-1210. This play contains mild adult humor that may not be suitable for very young children.

The other shows in the 2006 season include the following:

Death by Chocolate, by Paul Freed, April 21-30;

Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge, by Christopher Durang, July 28-Aug. 13;

The Runner Stumbles, by Milan Stitt, Sept. 22-Oct. 8; and

Uh-Oh, Here Come Christmas, based on the books by Robert Fulgham, Nov. 17-Dec. 3.

From the Feb. 8-14, 2006, issue

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