Marriott’s ‘Something Rotten!’ is a wonderful trip back to the renaissance
It’s England in the 90s … 1595 to be exact and the latest in-home appliance is a washboard. The Bottom brothers, Nick (KJ Hippensteel) and Nigel (Alex Goodrich), are trying to develop a successful play to save their theater company from going under while the one and only notable playwright of that time, William Shakespeare, is debuting his new hit, “Romeo and Juliet”.
And thus, we begin the tale of “Something Rotten” running through Oct. 20 at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. The show, written by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell with music and lyrics by Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick, opened on Broadway in 2015 and was nominated for 10 Tony Awards including Best Musical.
Nick and Shakespeare were in the same acting troupe before the Bard turned to writing. However, his jealousy of Shakespeare, who is portrayed in rock star style by Adam Jacobs, is on display with the song, “God, I hate Shakespeare”.
Nick engages Nostradamus (Ross Lehman), not THE Nostradamus, but his nephew Thomas, to look into the future to envision what work Shakespeare hasn’t written yet. Thomas predicts the future will be a departure from the current dramas and begin a new direction in theater.
“An actor is saying his lines, and out of nowhere he starts singing …,” says Thomas. The always amusing and dependable Lehman stops the show 30 minutes into the performance with his rendition of “A Musical”. The song covers myriad bits from famous musicals from The Music Man to The Lion King. Many of which are referenced throughout the script.
Thomas foresees a play in the future called “Omelette”. And the brothers get to work. Nick rehearses the troupe for a musical (The Black Death). Nigel meets his muse in Portia (Rebecca Hurd), the daughter of the puritan Brother Jeremiah (Gene Weygandt). He starts writing romantic poetry as love blooms (“I Love the Way”).
Meanwhile, Nick’s wife, Bea (Cassie Slater) goes out to earn some money to tide them over. And Shakespeare plays a sold-out concert in the park (“Will Power”). Here’s where the story takes shape, sort of “Shakespeare in Love” meets “A Chorus Line”.
On a tip from a spy, Shakespeare goes undercover to find out what the brothers are working on. The Bottom brother’s team with Shylock (Steven Strafford) to produce their play. The rousing comedy continues at a rapid pace with the huge cast of 24, under the direction of Scott Weinstein, as all’s well that ends well!
The excellent cast of actors fill the stage with huge dance/tap numbers, wonderful songs and some spirited acting. Lehman steals the show as the gaffe-prone but lovable Thomas, who is forced to admit he “was so close” when the Shakespearian play, he foresaw in the future is revealed to be Hamlet (as in Omelette … you knew that was coming!). Hippensteel is charming as the determined and head strong Nick Bottom. The very likable Goodrich is in fine voice as his lovestruck brother.
It’s a bit bawdy with a few cringe worthy, double entendres, but it’s very funny. Give this show four stars (out of four).