John Carridine, Jack Gilford, David Burns, Zero Mostel

Book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart

(based on the plays of Plautus)

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Choreography and Musical Staging by Jack Cole

Directed by George Abbott

Prologus/PseudolusZero Mostel
The ProteansEddie Phillips, George Reeder, David Evans
SenexDavid Burns
DominaRuth Kobart
HeroBrian Davies
HysteriumJack Gilford
LycusJohn Carradine
TintinabulaRoberta Keith
PanaceaLucienne Bridou
The GeminaeElisa James, Judy Alexander
VibrataMyrna White
PhiliaPreshy Marker
ErroniusRaymond Walburn
Miles GloriosusRonald Holgate

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM opened at the Alvin Theatre on May 8, 1962 and ran for 2 years or 964 performances.  It was the first show for which Sondheim provided both music and lyrics.  It won the Tony for the Best Musical Play.  Zero Mostel won the Tony for the Best Actor in a Musical.  Jack Gilford was nominated in the category Best Supporting or Featured Actor in a Musical but lost out to David Burns.  Ruth Kobart was nominated in the category Best Supporting or Featured Actress in a Musical but lost to Anna Quayle in STOP THE WORLD, I WANT TO GET OFF.   George Abbott won the Tony for Best Director of a Musical.   Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart won the Tony as Best Authors of a Musical Play.  Harold Prince won the Tony as Best Producer of a Musical Play.

Dick Shawn replaced Zero Mostel on Broadway .  The London production opened October 3, 1963 at the Strand Theatre (with Frankie Howerd as Pseudolus and Jon Pertwee as Lycus) and ran for 762 performances.  Frankie Howerd appeared in another London revival (with Patrick Cargill as Senex) which opened November 14, 1986 at the Piccadilly Theatre and ran for 49 performances.

In the introduction to the play published in 1991 Larry Gelbart, who co-wrote the book with the late Burt Shevelove (who died in 1982), calls it the "best piece of work I've been lucky enough to see my name on."    They had set themselves the task to create a play based on the writings of Plautus, whom Gelbart calls "the high priest of low comedy, inventor of the genre" .  Gelbart credits Plautus with the creation of comic conventions and stereotypes such as the scheming servant, the henpecked husband, the domineering matron, the lovesick young man, etc.  Other quotes in this webpage are from SONDHEIM & CO. by Craig Zadan.

Speaking to an invited Dramatists Guild audience, Sondheim claimed, "The only really popular show I've ever had is A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM."  (BROADWAY SONG & STORY, edited by Otis L. Guernsey, Jr., Dodd, Mead & Company 1985).  "It was the first one-set Broadway musical, as far as I know; certainly, one-set popular Broadway musical; just one set, and nobody changed costume."

Gelbart claims Sondheim threw out more songs--whole numbers--from the score than he's ever had to on any other show he's done since.  These include LOVE IS IN THE AIR (a vaudeville number/soft shoe dance), which was the opening number, back when Prologus was to be played by the same actor who played Senex (David Burns).  Sondheim eventually felt this was not working so he replaced it with INVOCATION, which director George Abbott didn't find hummable. Jerome Robbins was consulted and, based on his suggestion of a "neutral lyric" against which he could stage "a collage of low-comedy vignettes", Sondheim wrote COMEDY TONIGHT.  In the process, Prologus became Zero Mostel.  Gelbart points out that not only did COMEDY TONIGHT get the show off to a rousing start, but it also provided a witty, musical wrap-up which had previously eluded him and Shevelove.

Other songs which were cut include:

Shevelove:  "In writing the book, we selected the characters from Plautus' plays and created a plot.  The only thing extremely un-Roman was making a big thing out of the slave wanting to be free.  Although slaves in Roman comedies wanted to be free, it was a very casual thing."   Sondheim:  "I think the book is vastly underrated.  It's brilliantly constructed . . . It took Larry and Burt eleven complete and distinct separate drafts, and everybody thinks that it was whipped up over a weekend because it plays so easily.  The plotting is intricate, the dialogue is never anachronistic, and there are only two or three jokes -- the rest is comic situation . . . The style of the dialogue is very elegant . . . the phrasings and grace of that dialogue are better than most of the writing of the musical or nonmusical theatre of the last twenty years.  It's almost a foolproof piece--it can be done by any high school class or a group of vaudevillians and the play holds up."

FORUM was made into a film in 1966 which won the Oscar for Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment, but the award went to Ken Thorne, not to Sondheim!  Zero Mostel and Jack Gilford recreated their roles; and Jennifer and Susan Baker, who had played Littlechap's daughters in STOP THE WORLD, played The Geminae.  Despite direction by Richard Lester and a screenplay by Melvin Frank and Michael Pertwee, this was one of the unfunniest films imaginable and did not profit by dropping all but 6 of Sondheim's musical numbers.  Sondheim:  "FORUM is a direct antithesis of the Rodgers and Hammerstein school.  The songs could be removed from the show and it wouldn't make any difference . . ."  Well, the film proved that wrong!  Shevelove also disagreed:  "Without the songs, the show would become relentless.  It would exhaust you and you wouldn't get any breathers, any savoring of certain moments."

Gelbart on the film version:  "In casting Phil Silvers in the role of Lycus, they felt they needed to build up the part for him so that it would be as big as Zero's.  So they began to invent new story points and lots of twists.  FORUM is a very finely put together Chinese puzzle, and if you change one piece you have to account for about fifty more pieces behind it.  They cut a lot of the musical numbers and they lost any continuity of style."  Gelbart also felt Richard Lester was a bad choice for director because he made films "in which the camera never stops" while FORUM "is essentially a very literary piece of work and there arose a great contrast in approach of styles."

I first saw FORUM when it was revived on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre with Larry Blyden as the producer and Burt Shevelove as director.  The cast for this production included:

PrologusPhil Silvers
SenexLew Parker
DominaLizabeth Pritchett
HeroJohn Hansen
HysteriumLarry Blyden
PseudolusPhil Silvers
LycusCarl Ballantine
ErroniusReginald Owen
Miles GloriosusCarl Lindstrom
TintinabulaLauren Lucas
PanaceaGloria Mills
The GeminaeTrish Mahoney and Sonja Haney
VibrataKeita Keita
GymnasiaCharlene Ryan
PhiliaPamela Hall
The ProteansJoe Ross, Bill Starr, Chad Block

This version started out in Los Angeles on October 13, 1971 and ran for 47 performances; it then "transferred" to Broadway with Lizabeth Pritchett replacing Nancy Walker as Domina and Lauren Lucas replacing Ann Jillian as Tintinabula, opening April 4, 1972 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.  It closed, due to Phil Silvers' illness, August 12, 1972, after 156 performances.  Silvers later recovered from a stroke and toured the British provinces in the show, with a stopover in London.

I first saw a Saturday evening performance on April 1, 1972, when a first row orchestra seat was only $15.00.  I next saw it on its closing day, at a Saturday matinee on August 12, 1972, where a first row orchestra seat was only $9.00.  I never saw anything funnier in my life (and I have seen a lot of shows).

This revival won two Tony awards, Best Actor:  Musical  for Phil Silvers and Best Supporting Actor:  Musical for Larry Blyden.  Burt Shevelove was nominated for Best Direction of a Musical but lost to Harold Prince and Michael Bennett for FOLLIES.   This version dropped PRETTY LITTLE PICTURE,  and added a song by Domina called FAREWELL (written specifically for Nancy Walker) between COMEDY TONIGHT and LOVE I HEAR in the first act; in the second act,  THAT'LL SHOW HIM was replaced by THE ECHO SONG, sung by Philia and Hero and the FUNERAL SEQUENCE was renamed DIRGE.

Phil Silvers had been first choice to play Pseudolus in the original production but turned it down after reading an early draft, calling it "old shtick".   Then the role was offered to Milton Berle, who demanded script approval which Hal Prince refused, so Berle withdrew.   Even Zero Mostel turned it down initially.  Gelbart:  "Zero was a giant. He was a giant talent . . . and a great pain in the ass."   Sondheim:  "As far as Zero was concerned, he was wonderful on the road, but the minute he got to New York and became a star from the reviews, he would begin doing things like announcing the result of the heavyweight fight from the stage . . . wish everyone a happy Hallowe'en  . . . imitate the other actors."  

I also saw the most recent revival at the St. James Theatre, directed by Jerry Zaks on Tuesday evening, March 19, 1996 when a first row orchestra seat cost $70.00.  This production opened April 18, 1996 at the St. James Theatre and closed January 4, 1998, a run of 715 performances.  Nathan Lane won the Tony award for Best Actor (in three productions, all three actors  playing Pseudolus won the Tony for Best Actor!).  The cast at that time included:

PrologusNathan Lane
The ProteansBrad Aspel, Cory English, Ray Roderick
HeroJim Stanek
PhiliaJessica Boevers
SenexLewis J. Stadlen
DominaMary Testa
HysteriumMary Linn-Baker
LycusErnie Sabella
PseudolusNathan Lane
TintinabulaPamela Everett
PanaceaLeigh Zimmerman
The GeminaeSusan Misner, Lori Werner
VibrataMary Ann Lamb
GymnasiaStephanie Pope
ErroniusWilliam Duell
Miles GloriosusChris Groenendaal

Writing in ANYTHING GOES (Oxford University Press 2013), Ethan Mordden says of FORUM, "its love plot is the least interesting thing in it.  Instead, the driveline is the protagonist's quest: ... Mostel's manumission. ... FORUM has no story; rather it has a premise run amok to the point that ... the jokes become the show.  FORUM's songs are as relentlessly zany as FORUM's book ... and, indeed, this first of the Sondheim scores to be performed on Broadway must be the drollest ever written."

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM takes place 200 BC on a street in Rome in front of the houses of Erronius, Senex and Lycus.  Erronius is an old man whose children were stolen many years ago.  Senex is a henpecked husband and owner of two slaves, Pseudolus and Hysterium, he has a battle-axe wife, Domina, and a love-struck son, Hero; Lycus is a procurer who recently received a new shipment of courtesans.    Click here for 30 seconds of the Overture.

Comedy Tonight

FORUM had a disastrous out of town tryout in New Haven and Washington.  Jerome Robbins, who at one time was going to direct the show, came in as play doctor.  Sondheim:  "The first thing Jerry did when he came in was to tell us to change the opening number, to tell the audience what the evening is about because the show is perfectly terrific but they don't know what it's about until it's too late . . . They don't know that it's low comedy."  Sondheim wrote COMEDY TONIGHT over a weekend and it took Robbins a week to stage it before it went into the show in time for the first New York preview, and the show was instantly a hit.

From the book THE SOUND OF BROADWAY MUSIC by Steven Suskin (Oxford 2009), a quote by Irwin Kostal, who arranged the FORUM score:   At the beginning of the show, Jerry [Robbins] devised some very comical bits for Zero Mostel.  The routine came right out of burlesque.  With the curtain closed, the lights would hit the stage, and one of Zero's legs would protrude from between the split in the curtains [accompanied by a very raucous trombone glissando].  Then he did a pratfall [accompanied by a great big hit on the timpani with a special "boing" sound effect], followed by a lot of very funny bits.

From THE SECRET LIFE OF THE AMERICAN MUSICAL by Jack Viertel:  The revival directed by Jerry Zaks raised questions about who owned COMEDY TONIGHT, and the business created by Jerome Robbins.  "The most famous bit ... involved the show's "proteans", three comic male chorus dancers who played all the nonprincipal roles. ... They performed a dance behind a piece of drapery that covered their midsections, and it quickly became apparent that the three of them shared seven legs instead of six.  A remarkable amount of comedy was wrung out of this seven-legged dance before Zero Mostel simply grabbed the extra leg and hurled it offstage, which got an even bigger laugh than the dance itself."  Floria Lasky, lawyer for Robbins' estate, insisted that "if there's a wooden leg in it, Robbins gets a royalty."

Click here for 30 seconds of COMEDY TONIGHT from the original cast album.

Prologus:Playgoers, I bid you welcome.
The theatre is a temple and we are here to worship the gods of comedy and tragedy.
Tonight I am pleased to announce a comedy!
We shall employ every device we know in our desire to divert you.

Something familiar,
Something peculiar,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!

Something appealing,
Something appalling,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!

Nothing with kings,
Nothing with crowns;
Bring on the lovers, liars and clowns!
Old situations,
New complications,
Nothing portentous
Or polite;
Tragedy tomorrow,
Comedy tonight!

Something convulsive,
Something repulsive,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!

Something aesthetic,

Proteans:Something frenetic,
Prologus:Something for everyone:
Proteans:A comedy tonight!
Nothing with gods,
Nothing with Fate.
Prologus:Weighty affairs will just have to wait!
Proteans:Nothing that's formal,
Prologus:Nothing that's normal,
Proteans:No recitations to recite!
All:Open up the curtain:
Comedy tonight!
Prologus:Something erratic,
Something dramatic,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!

Frenzy and frolic,
Strictly symbolic,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!

And now, the entire company!

All:     Something familiar,
Something peculiar,
Something for everybody:
Comedy tonight!
Stage Right:Something that's gaudy,
Stage Left:Something that's bawdy--
Prologus:Something for everybawdy!
All:Comedy tonight!
Miles:Nothing that's grim.
Domina:Nothing that's Greek!
Prologus:She plays Medea later this week.
Women:Stunning surprises!
Men:Cunning disguises!
All:Hundreds of actors out of sight!
Erronius:Pantaloons and tunics!
Senex:Courtesans and eunuchs!
Hero:Funerals and chases!
Lycus:Baritones and basses!
All:No royal curse,
No Trojan horse,
And a happy ending, of course!
Goodness and badness,
Man in his madness:
This time it all turns out all right!
Tragedy tomorrow,
Comedy tonight!

Love, I Hear

Senex and Domina set off on a journey to Domina's mother.  Their son, Hero, has caught sight of a courtesan in the house of Lycus, the procurer, next door, and is instantly smitten.  He sings directly to the audience:

Click here for 30 seconds of LOVE, I HEAR from the original cast album.

Now that we're alone,
May I tell you
I've been feeling very strange?
Either something's in the air
Or else a change
Is happening in me.

I think I know the cause,
I hope I know the cause,
From everything I've heard,
There's only one cause it can be. . .

Love, I hear,
Makes you sigh a lot.
Also, love, I hear,
Leaves you weak.

Love, I hear,
Makes you blush
And turns you ashen.
You try to speak with passion
And squeak . . .
I hear.

Love, they say,
Makes you pine away,
But you pine away
With an idiotic grin.
I pine, I blush,
I squeak, I squawk.
Today I woke
Too weak to walk.
What's love, I hear,
I feel . . . I fear . . .
I'm in.

See what I mean?
Da-da-da-da-da-da-da . . .
(I hum a lot too.)

I'm dazed, I'm pale,
I'm sick, I'm sore;
I've never felt so well before!
What's love, I hear,
I feel . . . I fear . . .
I know I am . . .
I'm sure . . .I mean . . .
I hope . . .I trust . . .
I pray . . .I must . . .
Be in!

Forgive me if I shout . . .
Forgive me if I crow . . .
I've only just found out,
And, well . . .
I thought you ought to know.


Pseudolus, Hero's slave, has been cheating at dice, trying to win money to buy his freedom.  Pseudolus bargains with Hero.  Click here for 30 seconds of FREE from the original cast album.

Hero:Pseudolus, get me that girl!
Pseudolus:And if I can?
Hero:You are free!
Pseudolus:I am what?
Hero:                      Free!
Oh, what a word!
Oh, what a word!
Say it again!
Pseudolus:I often thought,
I often dreamed
How it would be . . .
And yet I never thought I'd be . . .
Once again.
Hero:  Free!
Pseudolus:But when you come to think of such things . . .
A man should have the rights that all others . . .
Can you imagine
What it will be like when I am . . .
Can you see me?

Can you see me as a Roman with my head unbowed?
(Sing it good and loud . . .)

Pseudolus:Like a Roman, having rights
And like a Roman proud!
Can you see me?
Hero:I can see you!
Pseudolus:Can you see me as a voter fighting graft and vice?
(Sing it soft and nice . . .)
Pseudolus:Why, I'll be so conscientious that I may vote twice!
Can you see me?
Can you see me?
When I'm free to be whatever I want to be,
Think what wonders I'll accomplish then!
When the master that I serve is me and just me,

Can you see me being equal with my countrymen?
Can you see me being Pseudolus the Citizen?
Can you see me being--?  Give it to me once again!

Pseudolus:That's it!
Pseudolus:Now, not so fast!
I didn't think . . .
The way I am,
I have a roof,
Three meals a day,
And I don't have to pay a thing . . .
I'm just a slave and everything's free.
If I were free,
Then nothing would be free,
And if I'm beaten now and then,
What does it matter?
Pseudolus:Can you see me?
Can you see me as a poet writing poetry?
All my verse will be . . .
Pseudolus:A museum will have me pickled for posterity!
Can you see me?
Hero:I can see you!
Pseudolus:Can you see me as a lover, one of great renown,
Women falling down?
Pseudolus:No, but I'll buy the house of Lycus for my house in town.
Can you see me?
Can you see me?
Be you anything from king to baker of cakes,
You're a vegetable unless you're free!
It's a little word, but oh, the difference it makes:
It's the necessary essence of democracy,
It's the thing that every slave should have the right to be,
And I soon will have the right to buy a slave for me!
Can you see him?
Well, I'll free him!
When a Pseudolus can move, the universe shakes,
But I'll never move until I'm free!
Such a little word, but oh, the difference it makes:
I'll be Pseudolus the founder of a family,
I'll be Pseudolus the pillar of society,
I'll be Pseudolus the man, if I can only be . . .
Pseudolus:Sing it!
Pseudolus:Spell it!
Hero:F-r- double . . .
Pseudolus:No, the long way . . .
Pseudolus and Hero:Free!


On Hero's behalf, Pseudolus pretends he has bought his freedom and is now looking to purchase a lifetime companion.  He gets Lycus to parade his latest collection of courtesans so he can choose. The girl Hero has fallen for is not among them, but he spots her at the window.  Lycus says this is a virgin who has already been sold to Miles Gloriosus who will claim her later today.  Pseudolus tells Lycus the girl is probably suffering from a plague ravaging Crete.  Pseudolus offers to house the girl so the other courtesans are not contaminated.  Lycus agrees.  Click here for 30 seconds of LOVELY from the original cast album.

Hero:My name is Hero.
Philia:My name is Philia.
Hero:                Philia.
Philia:I am a courtesan and a courtesan has but one talent.

I'm lovely,
All I am is lovely.
Lovely is the one thing I can do.

What I am is winsome,
Radiant as in some
Dream come true.

Isn't it a shame?
I can neither sew
Nor cook nor read or write my name.

But I'm happy
Merely being lovely,
For it's one thing I can give to you.

Hero:Say my name.
Philia:Just say your name?
Philia:Very well.  I forgot it.
Hero:It's Hero.
Philia:Forgive me, Hero, I have no memory for names.
Hero:You don't need one. You don't need anything.

You're lovely,
Absolutely lovely.
Who'd believe the loveliness of you?

Sweet and warm and winsome,
Radiant as in some
Dream come true.

Venus would seem tame,
Helen and her thou --
Sand ships would have to die of shame.

Hero and Philia:And I'm happy,
Happy that you're (I'm) lovely,
For there's one thing loveliness can do:
It's a gift for me to share with you!

Pretty Little Picture

Pseudolus has been to the harbor and spotted a boat
for the lovers to use to elope.  Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

However, Philia refuses to go because she must honor the contract to the Captain, Miles Gloriosus.  Pseudolus tells Philia that the Captain will knock three times to claim her.  He then steals Hysterium's book of potions in the hopes of concocting a sleeping potion.  But he lacks an essential ingredient, mare's sweat.

Pseudolus:In the Tiber there sits a boat,
Gently dipping its bow,
Trim and tidy and built to float.
Pretty little picture?
Now . . .

Put a boy on the starboard side,
Leaning out at the rail.
Next to him put a blushing bride,
Slim and slender and starry-eyed,

Down below put a tiny bed,
The sun gets pale,
The sea gets red,
And off they sail
On the first high tide,
The boat and the bed and the boy and the bride!

It's a pretty little picture, oh my!
Pretty little picture, how true!
Pretty little picture, which I,
Pseudo-little-us, give to you!

Feel the roll of the playful waves!
See the sails as they swell!
Hear the whips on the galley-slaves!

Pseudolus, Hero and Philia:Pretty little picture?
Pseudolus:Well . . .
Let it carry your cares away,
Out of sight, out of mind,
Past the buoy and through the bay--
Soon there's nothing but sea and spray.
Night descends and the moon's aglow.
Your arms entwined,
You steal below,
And far behind
At the edge of day,
The bong of the bell of the buoy in the bay,
And the boy and the bride and the boat are away!
Hero and Philia:It's a pretty little picture to share
As our little boat sails to sea.
Pseudolus:Take your little trip free as air,
Have a little freedom on me!
Hero and Philia:No worries,
No bothers,
No captains,
No fathers!
Pseudolus:In the ocean an island waits,
Smooth and sandy and pink,
Filled with lemons and nuts and dates.
Pseudolus, Hero and Philia:Pretty little picture?
In a cottage of cypress trees,
Sea-shells dotting the door,
Boy and bride live a life of ease,
Pseudolus, Hero and Philia:Doing nothing but what they please.
Pseudolus:And every night when the stars appear,
There's nothing more
To see or hear,
Just the shore
Where the lovers lie,
Hero and Philia:The sand and the sea and the stars and the sky,
Pseudolus:And the sound of a soft little satisfied sigh . . .
Pseudolus, Hero and Philia:All your (our) petty little problems will cease,
And your (our) little blessings will flow,
And your (our) little family increase,
Pretty little picture?
Pseudolus:No, no!
Pseudolus, Hero and Philia:Pretty little masterpiece!
Pretty little picture!
Everybody Ought to Have a Maid

Senex unexpectedly returns with the bust of Domina's mother which has been dropped and now needs its nose resharpened.  He kicks the door three times and Philia, thinking it is her captain, throws herself into his arms.  Pseudolus returns with the mare's sweat and, thinking quickly, tells Senex that Philia is the new maid.  Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

Senex prepares for a liaison with the new "maid" in the home of his neighbor Erronius, who is off searching for his children, stolen in their infancy by pirates.  Pseudolus surreptitiously sprinkles some mare's sweat on Senex and suggests he take a bath first.

Sondheim revealed that the libretto for FORUM was flexible  enough to allow for a bit of improvisation by its talented cast.  "Zero Mostel could do that (improv) for fifteen seconds or thirty seconds or a minute and a half, smelling the mare's sweat on Davey Burns.  And Davey Burns could do it.  So they had a routine worked out."  (BROADWAY SONG & STORY, edited by Otis L. Guernsey, Jr., Dodd, Mead & Company 1985)

Senex:Maids like me; I'm neat.  I like maids; they're neat.
Something no household should be without.

Everybody ought to have a maid.
Everybody ought to have a working girl.
Everybody ought to have a lurking girl
To putter around the house.

Everybody ought to have a maid.
Everybody ought to have a menial
Consistently congenial
And quieter than a mouse.

Oh!  Oh!  Wouldn't she be delicious,
Tidying up the dishes,
Neat as a pin?
Oh!  Oh!  Wouldn't she be delightful,
Sweeping out, sleeping in?

Everybody ought to have a maid!
Someone whom you hire when you're short of help
To offer you the sort of help
You never get from a spouse!

Fluttering up the stairway,
Shuttering up the windows,
Cluttering up the bedroom,
Buttering up the master,
Puttering all around
The house!

Oh!  Oh! Wouldn't she be delicious,
Tidying up the dishes,
Neat as a pin?
Oh! Oh! Wouldn't she be delightful,
Sweeping out, sleeping in?

Everybody ought to have a maid!
Someone who, in fetching you your slipper, will
Be winsome as a whippoorwill
And graceful as a grouse!

Skittering down the hallway,
Flittering through the parlor,
Tittering in the pantry,
Littering up the bedroom,

Senex and Pseudolus:Twittering all around
The house!
Hysterium:A maid?
Senex:A maid.
Pseudolus:A maid.
All:A maid!
Everybody ought to have a maid.
Everybody ought to have a serving girl,
A loyal and unswerving girl
Who's quieter than a mouse.
Oh!  Oh!
Hysterium:Think of her at the dustbin,
'Specially when she's just been
Traipsing about.
All:Oh!  Oh!  Wouldn't she be delightful?
Hysterium:Living in . . .
Senex:Giving out . . .
All:Everybody ought to have a maid,
Daintily collecting bits of paper 'n' strings,
Appealing in her apron strings,
And graceful as a grouse.
Hysterium:Pattering through the attic,
Senex:Chattering in the cellar,
Pseudolus:Clattering in the kitchen,
Senex:Flattering in the bedroom,
All:Puttering all around the house!
The house!
The house!
The house!
Lycus:A maid?
Hysterium:A maid.
Pseudolus:A maid.
Senex:A maid!
All:Everybody ought to have a maid,
Someone who's efficient and reliable,
Obedient and pliable,
And quieter than a mouse.

Oh!  Oh!  Wouldn't she be so nimble,
Fiddling with her thimble,
Mending a gown?
Oh! Oh!  Wouldn't she be delightful?

Lycus:Cleaning up . . .
Senex:Leaning down . . .
All:Everybody ought to have a maid!
Someone who'll be busy as a bumblebee
And even if you grumble, be
As graceful as a grouse!
Lycus:Wriggling in the anteroom,
Hysterium:Jiggling in the dining-room,
Pseudolus:Giggling in the living-room,
Senex:Wiggling in the other rooms,
All:Puttering all around
The house!
The house!
The house!
The house!

I'm Calm

Hysterium has been left in charge by Domina and now everything seems to be out of control.  Pseudolus tells him to stay calm.  Hysterium gives himself a pep talk.  Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

Calm, yes, calm.  Mustn't get excited.  Calm. Calm.

I'm calm, I'm calm,
I'm perfectly calm,
I'm utterly under control.
I haven't a worry--
Where others would hurry,
I stroll.

I'm calm, I'm cool,
A gibbering fool
Is one thing I never become!
When thunder is rumbling
And others are crumbling,
I hum.

(He tries unsuccessfully to hum.)

I must think calm comforting things:
Butterfly wings,
Emerald rings.
Or a murmuring brook,
Murmuring, murmuring, murmuring. . .

(He has successfully steadied his shaking hand.)

I'm calm, I'm calm,
I haven't a qualm,
I'm utterly under control.
Let nothing confuse me
Or faze me--
(He yawns.)
Excuse me--
I'm calm,
Oh so calm.
Oh so . . .

(Senex:  Hysterium!)

I'm calm, I'm calm,
I'm perfectly calm,
Indifferent to tensions and shocks.
Unruffled and ready,
My nerves are as steady
As rocks.

I'm calm, controlled,
So cool that I'm cold,
Aloofer than any giraffe.
When something's the matter,
Where others would shatter
I laugh.
(He laughs hysterically.)

I must breathe deep, ever so deep,
Think about sheep
Going to sleep,
Stop and count up to ten,
1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9. . . when
You need aplomb
And want to be calm
'Cause life is a horrible dream,
Just count up to ten
Very slowly, and then--

(Senex:  Hysterium!)

(He screams.)

Meanwhile Erronius returns home after 20 years of searching unsuccessfully for his stolen children.  His eyesight is dim and he takes Hysterium for a woman.  Erronius hears Senex singing in his bath, and Hysterium tells him his house is haunted.  Pseudolus pretends to be a soothsayer, and Erronius gives him a ring engraved with a gaggle of geese; his stolen children had similar rings.  To get Erronius out of the way, Pseudolus sends him to walk around the seven hills of Rome seven times, and then promises to produce his children.


Philia appears on the balcony of Senex's house and waves affectionately at Senex and Hero, causing them to eye each other doubtfully.  Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

Senex:Why did he look at her that way?
Hero:Why did he look at her that way?
Senex and Hero:Must be my imagination . . .
Senex:She's a lovely blooming flower,
He's just a sprout--impossible!
Hero:She's a lovely blooming flower,
He's all worn out--impossible!
Senex:Just a fledgling in the nest. . .
Hero:Just a man who needs a rest. . .
Senex:He's a beamish boy at best.
Hero:Poor old fellow . . .
Senex:He's a child, and love's a test
He's too young to pass--impassible!
Hero:He has asthma, gout, a wife,
Lumbago and gas--irascible!
Senex:Romping in the nursery. . .
Hero:He looks tired. . .
Senex:Son, sit on your father's knee.
Hero:Father, you can lean on me.
Senex and Hero:Him?
Hero:But why did she wave at him that way?
Senex:Why did she wave at him that way?
Senex and Hero:Could there be an explanation?
Hero:Women often want a father,
She may want mine--it's possible!
Senex:He's a handsome lad of twenty,
I'm thirty-nine--it's possible!
Hero:Older men know so much more. . .
Senex:In a way, I'm forty-four. . .
Hero:Next to him, I'd seem a bore.
Senex:All right, fifty!
Hero:Then again, he is my father;
I ought to trust--impossible!
Senex:Then again, with love at my age,
Sometimes it's just--impossible!
Hero:With a girl I'm ill at ease. . .
Senex:I don't feel well. . .
Hero:Sir, about those birds and bees . . .
Senex:Son, a glass of water, please . . .
Senex and Hero:The situation's fraught,
Fraughter than I thought,
With horrible,

Bring Me My Bride

Soldiers appear to announce the imminent arrival of Miles Gloriosus, sending Lycus into a panic.  Pseudolus suggests telling the captain that Senex's house is his; and Lycus agrees to bring the courtesans over and asks that Pseudolus impersonate him.  Pseudolus poses the courtesans just in time for the captain's arrival.  (The line "I am a parade" is the only line from Plautus which was used in the play.  Sondheim calls it the funniest line in the show.)  Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

  Miles:                     Stand aside, everyone!  I take large steps!

Soldiers:One, two, one, two . . .
Miles:We not only fought, but we won, too!
Soldiers:One, two, one, two . . .
Left, right, left, right . . .
Miles:There's none of the enemy left, right?
Soldiers:Right! Left!. . . right. . . right? Left?
Pseudolus:Hail, Miles Gloriosus.
Welcome to Rome.
Your bride awaits you.
Miles:My bride!
My bride!  My bride!
I've come to claim my bride,
Come tenderly to crush her against my side!

Let haste be made,
I cannot be delayed!
There are lands to conquer,
Cities to loot,
And peoples to degrade!

Soldiers:Look at those arms!
Look at that chest!
Look at them!
Miles:Not to mention the rest!
Even I am impressed.

My bride!  My bride!
Come, bring to me my bride!
My lust for her no longer can be denied!

Convey the news,
I have no time to lose!
There are towns to plunder,
Temples to burn
And women to abuse!

Soldiers:Look at that foot!
Look at that heel!
Mark the magnificent muscles of steel!
Miles:I am my ideal!

I, Miles Gloriosus,
I, slaughterer of thousands,
I, oppressor of the meek,
Subduer of the weak,
Degrader of the Greek,
Destroyer of the Turk,
Must hurry back to work!

Miles and Soldiers:I (him), Miles Gloriosus,
Soldiers:A man among men!
Miles and Soldiers:I (him), paragon of virtues,
Soldiers:With sword and with pen!
Miles:I, in war the most admired,
In wit the most inspired,
In love the most desired,
In dress the best displayed,
I am a parade!
Soldiers:Look at those eyes,
Cunning and keen!
Look at the size of those thighs,
Like a mighty machine!
Pseudolus:Those are the mightiest thighs that I ever have theen!
I mean . . .
Miles:My bride!  My bride!
Inform my lucky bride:
The fabled arms of Miles are open wide!

Make haste!  Make haste!
I have no time to waste!
There are shrines I should be sacking,
Ribs I should be cracking,
Eyes to gouge and booty to divide!
Bring me my bride!

Philia refuses to drink the sleeping potion.  Pseudolus tells the captain the virgin has escaped, and Miles threatens to burn down the house and kill Pseudolus (whom he believes is Lycus).  Pseudolus asks for one word:  Intermission.

That Dirty Old Man

Act II begins with a recap of the plot by Prologus.  Pseudolus promises to go in search of Philia and meantime gets Hysterium to hide her on the roof of Senex's house. Meanwhile, Domina unexpectedly returns home, haunted by a premonition Senex is up to no good.  Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

For over thirty years
I've cried myself to sleep,
Assailed by doubts and fears
So great the gods themselves would weep!

The moment I am gone,
I wonder where he'll go.
In all your simple honesty,
You can't begin to know . . .

(She wails.)

I want him,
I need him,
Where is he?

That dirty old man is here somewhere,
Cavorting with someone young and fair,
Disporting in every shameless whim.
Just wait till I get my hands on him!

I'll hold him,
Enfold him,
Where is he?

That dirty old man, where can he be?
Profaning our vows for all to see,
Complaining how he's misunderstood,
Abusing me (if he only would!)

Oh love,
Sweet love,
Why hide?
You vermin, you worm, you villain!
And press
Your bride!
Wherever he is, I know he's still an

My angel!
Where is he,
That dirty old man divine?

I love him,
I love him,
That lecherous, lewd, lascivious,
Loathsome, lying, lazy,
Dirty old man of mine!

That'll Show Him

Domina discovers the Captain in her house; he believes she is a courtesan.  She leaves to find out what Senex is up to and tells Hysterium when she returns she'll be disguised.  Hero discovers Philia setting off to meet Senex (whom she believes has the contract to buy her).  In her endearing dimness, Philia tries to reassure Hero.  Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

Let the captain wed me and woo me,
I will play my part!
Let him make his mad passion to me,
You will have my heart!

He can have the body he paid for,
Nothing but the body he paid for!
When he has the body he paid for,
Our revenge will start!

When I kiss him,
I'll be kissing you,
So I'll kiss him morning and night,
That'll show him!

When I hold him,
I'll be holding you,
So I'll hold him ten times as tight,
That'll show him ,too!

I shall coo and tenderly stroke his hair.
Wish that you were there--
You'd enjoy it!

When it's evening
And we're in our tent for two,
I'll sit on his knee,
Get to know him
That'll show him
How much I really love you!

Lovely (Reprise)

Pseudolus' new plan is to fob Hysterium off as Philia (actually the late Philia, as Hysterium has to pretend to be dead).  Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

Pseudolus:Come out here!  Come on out!
Hysterium:You didn't tell me I'd have to be a girl!
Pseudolus:Please, Hysterium.  We must convince the captain.
Hysterium:He'll never believe I'm a girl.  Look at me.  Just look at me.
Pseudolus:I can't take my eyes off you.

You're lovely,
Absolutely lovely.
Who'd believe the loveliness of you?

Sweet and warm and winsome,
Radiant as in some dream come true.

Venus will seem tame,
Helen and her thousand ships
Will have to die of shame!

You're so lovely,
Frighteningly lovely,
That the world will never seem the same!

Now, you just stand there quietly and think maidenly thoughts.

Hysterium:I'm lovely,
Absolutely lovely,
Who'd believe the loveliness of me?

Sweet and warm and winsome,
Radiant as in some dream come true.

Now . . .
Shouldn't I have some jewelry?

Pseudolus:Jewelry?  Here (gives him Erronius' ring)
Hysterium:Flowers.  I should have flowers.
Hysterium:I'm so lovely,
Pseudolus:Literally lovely--
Both:That the world will never seem
Hysterium:The same--
Pseudolus:You are lovely!
Both:That the world will never seem the same!

Funeral Sequence

Pseudolus informs the Captain that his bride is dead.  Miles insists on a funeral service.  Pseudolus summons the courtesans to participate.  (One of the pleasures of seeing lyrics written out is spotting jokes that might otherwise go unnoticed; in this case "sweetness and Gaul").  Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

 Pseudolus:   Gather round, handmaidens of sorrow.

Miles:Sound the flute,
Blow the horn,
Pluck the lute,
Forward . . . mourn!
(Mourners and Miles wail)
Miles:All Crete was at her feet,
All Thrace was in her thrall,
All Sparta loved her sweetness and Gaul . . .
Pseudolus:And Spain . . .
Miles:And Greece . . .
Pseudolus:And Egypt . . .
Miles:And Syria . . .
Pseudolus:And Mesopotamia . . .
Mourners:Oh, why should such a blossom fall?
Miles:Speak the spells,
Strum the lyre,
Toll the bells,
Build the pyre!
(The mourners wail).
Pseudolus:I don't know about you, but I've suffered enough.
On behalf of the body I'd like to thank you for a lovely funeral.
Miles:All Crete was at her feet,
But I shall weep no more.
I'll find my consolation as before
Among the simple pleasures of war!

Pseudolus talks the captain out of burning the corpse and manages to get back the contract for Philia.  While attempting a goodbye kiss, Miles discovers the "corpse" is alive, so Hysterium panics and runs off.  Miles' soldiers give chase; all the courtesans have run off as well, and Lycus sends his eunuchs after them.  Hysterium returns and Senex, mistaking him for Philia , sends him to Erronius' house.  Domina arrives disguised as a virgin and Miles nabs her, thinking she is Philia.  Hero returns and Pseudolus gives him Philia's contract.  Senex grabs Domina, thinking she is Philia and she thinks he has finally regained his love for her.  Erronius passes by on this third time around the hills of Rome and, seeing his ring on Hysterium's finger, believes Hysterium is his lost daughter.  Miles seizes Pseudolus and is about to kill him when Pseudolus takes "poison" he believes is the sleeping potion but which turns out to be an aphrodisiac Hysterium prepared for Senex.  Lycus emerges and presents the real Philia to Miles who, in the excitement of finally getting his bride, forgives Pseudolus.  However, both he and Philia have rings engraved with a gaggle of geese; they are brother and sister and Erronius is their father.  Hero is now free to marry Philia.


Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

Pseudolus:Lovers divided
Get coincided.
Something for everyone:
Hero and Philia:A comedy tonight!
Pseudolus:Father and mother
Get one another.
Domina:Something for everyone:
Senex:A tragedy tonight!
Miles:I get the twins!
They get the best.
Erronius:I get a family . . .
Hysterium:I get a rest.
Soldiers:We get a few girls.
Lycus:I'll get some new girls.
Pseudolus:I get the thing I want to be:
All:Free! Free! Free! Free! Free!
Nothing for kings
Nothing for crowns,
Something for lovers, liars and clowns!
What is the moral?
Must be a moral.
Here is the moral, wrong or right:
Pseudolus:Morals tomorrow!
All:Comedy, comedy, comedy, comedy, comedy,
Comedy, comedy, comedy, comedy tonight!

All lyrics posted copyright 1962 Stephen Sondheim,
Range Road Music, Inc. Quartet Music Inc, and Rilting Music, Inc.
All rights administered by Herald Square Music. Inc.

Commentary by Judy Harris

Visit my homepage at http://www.bestweb.net/~foosie/index.htm

or E-mail me at foosie@bestweb.net

Tools services webmasters counters generators scripts tutorials free