Based on the comedies of the ancient Roman playwright Plautus, it tells the story of a slave named Pseudolus and his attempts to win his freedom by encouraging the romance between his master's son Hero and a young virgin named Philia who is owned by Marcus Lycus, a dealer in courtesans, and promised to a swaggering soldier named Miles Gloriosus. The humor is broad and bawdy and fast-paced.
Sondheim's score was coolly received when "Forum" opened on Broadway on May 8, 1962 at the Alvin Theatre, and was not even nominated for a Tony Award even though the show won the award for Best Musical. Starring Zero Mostel, Jack Gilford, David Burns, Ruth Kobart, and John Carradine, the original production was directed by Broadway legend George Abbott.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum was made into a film in 1966 with Mostel, Gilford, Buster Keaton, and Phil Silvers (who also starred in a critically well-received Broadway revival in 1972). It was also revived with great success in 1996 with Nathan Lane as Pseudolus, replaced later in the run by Whoopi Goldberg.