Something For Everyone…

Steve Coats writes from Shepperton, Australia…

I often read your Blog and really enjoy its content. I can give you feedback on the Melbourne 'FORUM' with Geoffrey Rush. It is totally hilarious and as funny an evening as I've ever spent in the theatre. Everyone laughed themselves hoarse.

The whole cast is fantastic but Geoffrey is phenomenal. His performance is the funniest thing I have ever seen in the theatre. From the first moment he enters balancing a comedy 'urn' in one hand and a tragedy urn in the other then squirts tragedy with a fire extinguisher we know we are in for a really crazy night.

I have not seen Zero Mostel (except on YouTube) or Nathan Lane but I'm sure Mr Rush would be in their stratosphere. His rapport with the audience was great. Geoffrey is first and foremost a theatre performer. The play was chosen as they thought they could get Geoffrey interested. There are interviews with Geoffrey and other cast members on YouTube with a few snippets of the show visible.

Makes me even sorrier I'll never experience it. I've never seen Geoffrey Rush not be marvelous in anything he's been in. And by the way, here's an example of how every production comes up with some big laugh that I've never encountered before. I've never seen anyone do that with the urns and the fire extinguisher.

Like you, I never had the certain pleasure of watching Zero Mostel do it on stage. I saw the movie, of course, but once you're familiar with the full stage version, it's awfully hard to enjoy the movie. I did see, as I've mentioned here many times, a stage revival with Phil Silvers in the lead, as opposed to the supporting role he played in the film. He was beyond amazing.

I saw Nathan Lane twice. Both times, I imposed on Larry Gelbart to get me house seats. As co-author of the play, Mr. Gelbart got damn good house seats but the first time I had his, I made a fatal error. I didn't pick up the tickets well before the performance so they gave them away (or sold them, perhaps via a scalper for megabucks) to someone else. When my date and I arrived at the theater that night, they instead stuck us in the back row of the St. James which was literally too narrow for someone 6'3" to sit in without having his knees up under his chin. I ended up sitting on the seat with the seat up, if you can figure out what I mean by that. I could not sit in the seat with the seat down. From there, Nathan Lane was about the size of a Jujubee.

This was a late preview and Gelbart, who would not see this production until weeks later, asked me to e-mail him immediately after the performance and give him my opinion. Out on the sidewalk afterwards, I used my cell phone to send him a three word review: NEEDS MORE JEWS. When Larry finally saw it, he called to tell me he agreed but said, "They'll grow into it."

He was, as he usually was in matters of comedy, correct. About eight months later, I was back in New York. Once again, I arranged for Mr. Gelbart's house seats but this time I was wiser. I scheduled Forum for my last night in Manhattan and picked the tickets up on my first day there. This time, my date and I (different date) were in the second row on the aisle. World of difference. Nathan Lane and the company had had many months to explore the play and learn how to get laughs with the material and they were much, much better even though insofar as I could tell, no Jews had been added.

I've seen dozens of productions. Mr. Silvers was out and away my favorite Pseudolus. Second place would probably be a tie between Nathan Lane and a fellow named Bob Amaral, who understudied Lane on Broadway and who has played the role many times in other stagings. But you know who I'd love to see do it? You've seen me mention my friend Jim Brochu here many times. Jim and I bonded over our mutual love of Forum and I envy that he saw Zero do it and met him and also became close with Davey Burns, who originated the role of Senex. Jim, if you're reading this — and I know you are — see what you can do to star in a production some day soon. I know you want to do it for yourself but forget that. Do it for me. Just don't do it in Australia.

Here's another peek at the production down in Melbourne…