A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which
was the first Broadway production to boast music and lyrics
by Stephen Sondheim, drew most of its farcical situations directly
from the plays of Titus Maccius Plautus
(254 BC-184 BC). The writers, hoping to give Broadway a taste
of what once convulsed ancient Roman audiences, carefully studied
all 21 of Plautus' surviving comedies and then created their
own original story, drawing characters and situations freely
from many of the old scripts.
The plot revolves around Pseudolus, a slave who will do almost
anything to gain his freedom. When Pseudolus is left in charge
of his owner's young son who has fallen madly in love with a
beautiful courtesan, the fun begins. The young boy promises Pseudolus
his freedom if he can arrange a marriage before his father returns.
Pseudolus, of course, agrees. But not even the conniving slave
can foresee the tangled web that he is about to weave.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum opened
at the Alvin Theatre on May 8, 1962, with Zero Mostel playing
the part of Pseudolus. The production ran for 964 performances.
The 1966 screen version starred Zero Mostel and Phil Silvers.