Something Rotten! @ Playhouse Square, April 26-May 14
Review by Laura Kennelly
‘Tis a happy occasion for the provinces (AKA Cleveland, to put it in Elizabethan style) when [Broadway] Royalty visits. And, make no mistake, Something Rotten! offers a very very happy occasion--it’s one of the best new musicals around. The National Touring Company of Something Rotten! (the Broadway show closed January 1st) brings rich and silly merriment to the Connor Palace.
This musical, directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, offers light-hearted fun perfect for spring. Yes, there’s satire, but set so far in the past that no one will mind (not even English teachers) having a bit of fun at The Bard of Avon’s expense. As the first extravagant production number jokes, “Welcome to the Renaissance where everything is new.” Based on appearances (lush, witty, totally extravagant costumes, clever adaptable sets), there’s nothing second rate about this touring hit.
If you love Shakespeare, and hate musicals, you’ll love it; if you hate Shakespeare and love musicals, you’ll love it (one of the best songs is “God, I Hate Shakespeare”). If you love both (hand raised here), then you are in heaven.
Neither the iconic Renaissance bard nor the musical theatre culture escapes loving mockery. When Shakespeare puts on a show, it’s in the park (as in popular community productions today featuring “Shakespeare in the Park”). When the brothers discuss writing a “A Musical,” enough well-crafted allusions to famous musicals seep in (sometimes just a chord or two, sometimes a set or a light) that everyone will likely recognize favorites.
The premise sounds as if it might inflict serious historicity upon us. Fear not, facts are few, but it’s wonderful to consider the possibilities: What if amongst Shakespeare’s rivals (and he did have many) were two bumbling brothers, Nick and Nigel Bottom, who ran into a soothsayer named Nostradamus who told them the next new stage fad in Renaissance England would be musicals?
Turns out he’s not the best of soothsayers, but he does have a vision--of sorts. That’s the plot and the inspiration that leads to a riot of silliness and some pretty catchy tunes by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick (who perhaps drew on life experience as a brother-duo writing team when creating the show’s Bottom brothers). For a look, see [http://www.broadway.com/videos/156167/video-go-behind-the-music-of-something-rotten-with-karey-wayne-kirkpatrick/]
Three key members of the cast were in the Broadway show (Adam Pascal as Shakespeare, Rob McClure as Nick Bottom, and Josh Grisetti as Nigel Bottom). With rockstar swagger Pascal’s Shakespeare flaunts and struts his way through crowds of fainting fangirls. And his eyes? Well, David Bowie has nothing on Pascal for eyeliner. Tres chic.
Other players include Maggie Lakis as Nick’s much-put upon wife, Bea; Blake Hammond as the befuddled Nostradamus (related to, but not the famous prophet “Nostradamus”); Autumn Hurlbert as gifted poet Nigel’s sweetly girlish love, Portia; Scott Cote as the pompous Puritan Brother Jeremiah, and Jeff Brooks as unofficial producer/backer Shylock.
Kudos, too, to Nick Rashad Burroughs, as the minstrel who strolls onstage to open the show and welcome us to the Renaissance “where everything is new.”
Something Rotten doesn’t stint on special numbers, well-executed dancing, and spunk. Much of the show’s merriment is carried by what seems to be hundreds of different characters, all played by the quick-stepping and enthusiastic ensemble. The ensemble cast includes Baldwin Wallace University’s Lucy Anders, class of 2015, as well as Kyle Nicholas Anderson, Daniel Beeman, Mandie Black, Pierce Cassedy, Drew Franklin, Juliane Godfrey, Leah Hofmann, Kristie Kerwin, Ralph Meitzler, Patrick John Moran, Joel Newsome, Con O’Shea-Creal, and Tonya Thompson.
Praise also to those who see to the little details that make things work: Scott Pask (scenic design), Gregg Barnes (costume design), Jeff Croiter (lighting design), Peter Hylenski (sound design), Josh Marquette (hair design), Phil Reno (music director/conductor), Glen Kelly (arrangements), Larry Hochman (orchestrations), Steve Bebout (associate director).
Bottom Line: Clever, involving, funny, and fresh. Highly recommended.