Larger Than Life Musical Comedy
It’s halfway through the first act, and the lights slowly come down. Small rope gates go up on the four corners of the stage, and ecstatic ensemble members come running up the aisles, barely allowing the gates to act as a barrier. Neon spot lights start up, creating a disco-effect in the space. As the excitement amps up, we hear a chant start to grow:
“We want Will. We want Will. We want Will. We want Will.”
What are they preparing for? William Shakespeare’s first big entrance into the musical with Will Power – and the excitement only grows from there. For the Shakespeare fans out there, you might already have an image of Bard in your mind. Something Rotten is bound to turn whatever you learned in school on its head, presenting the audience with an Elvis-type star that will bring the house down.
Something Rotten! takes place in William Shakespeare’s England – a time when The Bard (Adam Jacobs) runs the art scene, and any other poet is meant to take a back seat. However, Nick Bottom (KJ Hippensteel, with spot-on dry humor and comedic timing) refuses to back down, and he and his brother (Nigel Bottom – Alex Goodrich, with a sweet, innocent portrayal that wonderfully contrasts his brother) are determined to make the next best hit. When Soothsayer Nostradamus (Ross Lehman) tells Nick that the future of theatre demands that singing, dancing, and acting must happen at the same time, the Bottom Brothers set out to write the first ever musical. However, much like any musical comedy, nothing really goes according to plan. Nigel finds forbidden love, the company must resort to questionable funding, and Nick must come to realize that when it comes to art, nothing is more important than the famous phrase “to thine own self be true.”
With book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell, and music and lyrics by Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick, Something Rotten! features hits including Welcome to the Renaissance, God, I Hate Shakespeare, Will Power, and We See the Light. The book includes various references to both Shakespeare’s repertoire and the musical history canon – ranging from obvious and subtle that might just keep those theatre enthusiasts in the audience on their toes, wondering if they can guess the next one’s origin.
Jaw-Dropping Musical Numbers
Directed by Scott Weinstein and choreographed by Alex Sanchez, Something Rotten! showcases larger-than-life ensemble numbers that take over the stage. Weinstein and Sanchez make effective use of the space - creating something special for each audience member to see on every corner of the theatre-in-the-round stage.
A Musical marks the pivotal moment in Act One when Nostradmus describes the future of theatre. Hidden within his monologue are subtle commentaries on the over-priced concessions and lack of pay in the theatre industry – jokes that Lehman landed in this Opening Night performance full of industry folks whose laughter proves they understood all-too-well.
Then A Musical begins – a number full of allusions to the hits over the years including A Chorus Line, Les Misérables, and Phantom of the Opera. As Nostradmus makes the references, the music slowly transitions into brief segments from the original source material, with choreography that matches. Some might recognize a glimpse at the famous snapping sequence from West Side Story, the long line of dancers with headshots from A Chorus Line, and of course, a dancer in a full-spandex cat costume from CATS. As much as the song pokes fun at spectacles over the years, the piece also holds a love letter to musical history. Regardless, this Opening Night audience erupted with laughter from start to finish – and many even cheered and applauded at the especially recognizable, and on-point choreography.
At the heart of this spectacle is a heart-felt story about relationships – and Weinstein works with this ensemble to bring these loving moments to life.
Nigel Bottom finds develops a forbidden relationship with Portia (Rebecca Hurd) – the daughter of Brother Jeremiah (Gene Weygandt), the Protestant Leader who wishes to rid the world of poetry. Goodrich’s genuine character only made his first taste of true love more exciting for this writer to watch unfold. When Portia and Nigel share their duet We See the Light, we see them bring the best out of each other – complete with stunning vocals. In this number full of high-energy choreography and vibrant, rainbow costumes, we also see a story that is deeply intimate as Portia encourages Nigel to take a stand and share his poetry with the world.
With a memorable score, top-notch choreography, and a hilarious script, Something Rotten! is, in this writer’s opinion, an event to see. Whether you are a die-hard Shakespeare fan or simply one who enjoys a catchy musical, the Marriott’s production has a little something for everyone.