Crazy Forum by Stephen Sondheim, a Broadway classic for the reopening of Lido 2 Paris

A musical comedy about a Roman slave in search of freedom, what better way to reopen one of the hot spots of Parisian nightlife, renamed Lido 2? Sumptuously redone after nine months of work, the former cabaret on the Champs-Élysées has put the feathered reviews away and now hosts musical shows. Starting with this Broadway classic: “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” first composed in 1962 by the lyricist Stephen Sondheim of West Side Story and until now never shown in France.

Golden trimmings and crystal chandeliers – the old Lido has undergone a makeover while keeping its glitz and swing under its new name Lido 2, directed by Jean-Luc Choplin, a great defender of American musical comedy. “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” is the sixth Stephen Sondheim production that the former head of the Châtelet has brought back to life.

“I wanted something that was both sophisticated and popular, that was joyful. It’s inspired by Plautus, so the comedies that were performed in Rome in the 200s BC, even also comedies performed in Greece. Plautus completely inspired Molière. So, we are in Mediterranean culture, in homage to Stephen Sondheim and it was the opportunity to have something fairly light, even though there are lots of little messages that go on to show that we are in a cabaret.”

Stephen Sondheim was only 27 when he launched what would become, after five years and eleven booklets, his greatest success on Broadway: eight Tony Awards nominations, six wins, recalls British conductor Gareth Valentine, who leads around fifteen musicians in togas.

“Stephen Sondheim, buoyed by his success with ‘West Side Story’, for the first time tries his hand as a composer and lyricist. He even composes in the manner of Bernstein. And although his music is rooted in the golden age of traditional songs, the harmonies and rhythms are much more daring – even the jokes are better – because of his very classical training. The songs are extremely well-structured and the lyrics unequalled in their genre.”

The colorful characters of this musical comedy also remain unequalled: a lazy slave, a sold girl, children kidnapped by pirates, eunuchs, and prostitutes. Between misunderstandings and crossfires, they are led at a brisk pace by the Irish director Cal McCrystal. He tries to remain faithful to the spirit of this work of joyful immorality while adjusting it to the present day: “It is a sex comedy and the women are not always treated well. This production gives them more power and strength, so that they are equal to men, or even funnier than men in some cases.”

Packed with discoveries and featuring a roller-skating turtle, an aquatic ballet, and an Ethiopian contortionist from Cirque du Soleil, this “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” exudes a rare contagious energy thanks to its endearing artists and euphoric music.

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