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  • Oliver Boon

Fools the Musical: Fiddler on the Roof meets A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Book and Lyrics by Neil Simon Music and Lyrics by Phil Swann and Ron West

Adapted from the play Fools by Neil Simon. Directed by Ron West

Music Direction by Jan Roper Choreography by Louisa Kendrick Burton Starring James Byous, Parvesh Cheena, Cat Davis, Hank Jacobs, Derek Manson,Brendan Mulally, Jason Paige, Beth Robbins, Robyn Roth, Clare Snodgrass Also featuring Nina Genatossio, Juliane Hagn, Diane Renee, Bolor Saruul, Jack Sharpe Produced by Open Fist Theatre Company, Martha Demson, artistic director

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum:

First word that comes to my mind when it comes to the music in Fools is kitschy. Like FTHWF, Fools takes pleasure in its silliness.

Fiddler on the Roof:

The setting and characters have a similar type of schtick to those of Fiddler on the Roof. There are superstitions. There are peasants. And of course, at the end, there is a marriage. Both Musicals I have mentioned share similarities that the late great Zero Mostel starred in both of them on broadway and would be a perfect fit for him.

In 1893 Ukraine, a young tutor by the name of Leon arrives in Kulyenchikov after a harrowing journey — only to discover that the schtetl yhis cursed, rendering every resident as dumb as a bag of rocks. Will he fall victim to the curse, or can he save himself and the village too? The village is filled with various simple but good-natured townsfolk: a seller of flowers who describes them as fish (oh the hilarity), the world's worst mailman, a vegetarian butcher and a shephard who has lost his two dozen sheep (actually 14).

If I wanted to introduce kids to theater, I would take them to this play. This would make a great christmas play in how innocently light the material is.

The shepherd was my absolute favorite. Masterfully worked a deadpan schtick and would keep a hilarious stillness out to the audience for such an elongated time but it worked every time for me.

Some of the 4th wall jokes fell a bit flat. Others laughed but it just wasn't my taste.

Yechna did a great job with the material given did a decent job with fthe show. He had a Christian Slater quality to him that worked well and made me buy into it.

The lead was played by the understudy and did a decent job with the show. He had a Christian Slater quality to him that worked well.

The music was probably the weakest part of the show. It wasn't bad exactly but just didn't feel very original.

A lot of the comedy was hit and miss but that is what Neil Simon's Fools always was. Legend has it that Neil Simon was going through a divorce and his then wife acquired the earnings from his next broadway play. So Simon apparently wrote Fools in an attempt for it to be a flop. But a Neil Simon flop is still a half-decent play!

The scene design really caught me I and reminded me of the paintings in Midsommar in a less scary way. Reading the playbill, it was interesting to see that the design for the show was inspired by Ukranian Pysanky eggs which is a great way of putting in an authentic touch [RB21] to an unusual story.

Altogether, this was fun -light hearted show to go see. I definitely preferred seeing Fools as a musical than as a straight play. The ensemble did a great overall effort giving this show some life. I saw Fools in its penultimate showing of its extended run and I'm glad I caught it just in time. I wish I had seen it sooner so I could recommend it but I’m sure we’ll be seeing Fools: The Musical come around again in some form or other.

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