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Marriott’s ‘Something Rotten!’ is Something Brilliant

Set in the Renaissance in England when William Shakespeare was king of theater, the comedically brilliant Something Rotten examines the era in song and dance from the standpoint of two brothers struggling to make their own name as playwrights under the vast shadow cast by The Bard.

Nick and Nigel Bottom are two young aspiring playwrights who can’t seem to catch a break. Every time they concoct a new idea for a play, Shakespeare beats them to the punch. So, while the Bottom Brothers struggle to put food on the table, the rest of the country is obsessed with the writings of Shakespeare.

Handsome and charismatic, KJ Hippensteel plays older brother Nick Bottom with just the right touch of likability, earnestness, and panache. Nick has had a modicum of success as a solo writer, and has now brought his younger brother into the mix.

Nick has a bitter rivalry with Shakespeare. The Bard was once an actor in Nick’s troupe, but he was such a bad actor, Nick persuaded him to leave the acting world behind and become a writer. He had no idea Shakespeare would go on to any success, much less one that leaves practically no room for Nick and his brother to succeed as well.

Nick’s younger brother Nigel Bottom is a brilliant poet plagued by poor self-confidence and the social skills of a potato. Played with excellent comedic skill by Alex Goodrich, Nigel secretly idolizes Nick’s nemesis. He also longs to find a romantic love of his own to rival the happy marriage of his brother.

As Nick’s supportive wife Bea, Cassie Slater is a delight. She has a sultry singing voice that draws the audience in, and a comedic delivery that results in audience laughter that can probably be heard down the street.

Faced with the prospect of losing financing for their plays if they don’t generate a bonafide hit, Nick takes the nest egg he and his wife have put away to buy a home in the country and uses the money to hire a soothsayer to predict the next big hit so the Bottom Brothers can bring it to the stage before Shakespeare does.

Enter Thomas Nostradamus, the less successful nephew of the famous French seer whose predictions are known far and wide. Nostradamus the younger is expertly brought to life by fan-favorite Ross Lehman who knows just how long he can milk a joke.

In exchange for Nick’s money, Nostradamus looks into the future and predicts that the next big thing in theater will be musicals – something unheard of in that day and age. What ensues is the bringing to life of the first ever musical. In the process, the show lampoons an array of popular Broadway hits that has the audience in stitches.

Marriott Theatre’s Something Rotten is a show filled with scene stealing characters – none more impressive than Adam Jacobs as Shakespeare. Jacobs’ Shakespeare is a would-be rock star who gleefully oozes machismo and basks in the adoration of his legions of fans. The showstopper moment of the night is a drop-the-mic type dance off between Hippensteel and Jacobs which showcases the two actors’ multifaceted talents of song, dance, and style.

Also notable in the cast are Rebecca Hurd as Nigel’s love interest Portia, Gene Weygandt as the ultra-right wing conservative religious fanatic Brother Jeremiah, Steven Strafford as Shylock – a Jewish money lender who longs to be a theatrical producer, and Jonathan Butler-Duplessis who sets the stage with his golden pipes as the Minstrel.

Director Scott Weinstein has put together an amazing and thoroughly entertaining production. The Something Rotten ensemble is one of the best to ever grace Marriott’s stage, bringing Alex Sanchez’s thrilling choreography to life with precision and emotion. Music director Ryan T. Nelson also deserves great praise.