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Marriott Theatre stages rousing, perfectly cast 'Something Rotten!'

★★★ ½

As a critic, it's my duty to point out that the 2015 Broadway musical comedy "Something Rotten!" is unabashedly derivative. Authors John O'Farrell and brothers Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick brazenly steal from Shakespeare and a number of hit musicals, while also having no qualms deploying obvious stereotypes for easy laughs.

But I suggest you take the advice of the show's heavily accented Jewish money lender Shylock (Steven Strafford): "Don't listen to the critics!"

In a rousing regional debut at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, "Something Rotten!" is something to crow about.

Director Scott Weinstein oversees a dazzling production that is cast to perfection -- right down to the smallest role. Not only do the players wring every possible laugh out of the material, they also uncover a surprising amount of poignancy amid all the anachronistic silliness.

"Something Rotten!" is set in Elizabethan England as playwriting brothers Nick (a driven KJ Hippensteel) and Nigel Bottom (the more poetic Alex Goodrich) teeter on the brink of failure. Nick seethes at the rock-star success of William Shakespeare (a swaggering Adam Jacobs), but Nigel is a super fan.

Desperate for a winning idea to outdo Shakespeare, Nick seeks the help of psychic Nostradamus (a spacey and sidesplitting Ross Lehman). He advises Nick to invent "A Musical" in a showstopping song that simultaneously celebrates and skewers musical theater conventions in a brilliant number by choreographer Alex Sanchez.

This being the 2010s, "Something Rotten!" embraces its strong feminist humor. Nick's overly supportive wife, Bea (an endearing Cassie Slater), gets loads of laughs as a woman who finds ingenious ways to enter the workforce (and save the day).

The poetry-loving Portia (a strong-willed Rebecca Hurd), meanwhile, proves to be the perfect romantic interest for Nigel. Hurd's Portia shows her strength by defying her puritanical father, Brother Jeremiah (Gene Weygandt, who "doth protest too much" against the intertwined "evils" of theater and homosexuality).

Thanks to the lavish period/contemporary costumes of Theresa Ham and the flashy rock concert lighting of Jesse Klug, Marriott's "Something Rotten!" is a feast for the eyes. Set designer Scott Davis also has fun with pun-filled street signage inspired by the titles of Shakespeare's plays.

"Something Rotten!" bursts with snark and self-referential pride at being such a theatrical know-it-all. But audiences won't mind as Marriott's production delivers strong and consistent laughs.