BWW Review: SOMETHING ROTTEN Brings Hilarity and Music to the Peace Center
In the best possible way, Something Rotten is a circular argument celebrating its own existence. It's a glorious, hilarious, tuneful tribute to that pinnacle of theatrical entertainment, the modern, mainstream American musical.
Along the way, it also celebrates Shakespeare (you'll find yourself singing that name as you walk out) and the creative process while always keeping the audience entertained and amused.
The show takes place in the 90s - the 1590s - when William Shakespeare (Adam Pascal) reigns over the theatre world like a rock and roll star. In this case, quite literally, as Shakespeare struts and preens like a 16th century Mick Jagger, boastfully aware of his own genius ("Do you like that word? I just made it up. It's what I do!").
Contrast that with the Bottom brothers, Nick the showman (Rob McClure), and Nigel the sensitive poet (Josh Grisetti). They write and produce their own plays with a small troupe of actors, but they're no match for the Bard. In fact, Nick would be happy enough if he could even be considered a bard. But nothing he tries can match the showy popularity of crowd-pleasers like Romeo & Juliet.
So Nick consults a local soothsayer (Blake Hammond) in an attempt to best Shakespeare at his own game. By gazing into the future, the soothsayer gives Nick some hazy details about how theatrical entertainment will evolve, leading Nick to invent, yes, the musical.
With a book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O'Farrell, and music and lyrics by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick, Something Rotten is a crowd-pleasing musical comedy that featured two mid-show standing ovations at its Tuesday night opening at the Peace Center.
The performances are uniformly excellent. Rob McClure is perfect as Nick, with a scruffy physical energy and enthusiasm - as well as formidable comedy chops - that bring to mind the great Nathan Lane. He's well-paired with Josh Grisetti, who gives Nigel a warm sincerity that makes for a great contrast.
As Shakespeare, Adam Pascal embodies the notion of a rock & roll god, while also being able to mine the humor written into the role. His "Will Power" and "Hard to Be the Bard," are standouts in an evening full of knockout production numbers.
Maggie Lakis is wonderful as Nick's long-suffering wife, Bea, who will literally do anything to support her family. Autumn Hurlbert also makes a strong impression as Portia, the object of Nigel's affections. She and Grisetti lead a terrific number, "We See the Light," that highlights their easy chemistry.
Special mention must also go to Blake Hammond, who is simply outstanding as Nostradamus the soothsayer. His character brings about the literally showstopping number, "A Musical," which manages to cover the complete history of musicals in a devastatingly funny eight minutes. If you're only somewhat familiar with the form, you'll still catch plenty of references. But - much like your knowledge of Shakespeare - the more you bring to the show, the more you'll get out of it.
Direction, choreography, costumes - everything here works. It's a dynamite entertainment that's full of life and energy and enough references - both subtle and overt - to other works, that you could see this show numerous times and still not catch them all. But don't worry if you don't. It only enhances what's already a fast, funny show.
Something Rotten runs through April 16 at the Peace Center in downtown Greenville. For tickets and showtimes, call the box office at 864-467-3000 or visit peacecenter.org. Note to parents - the show contains some language and situations that may be a bit much for younger kids, so consider it a PG-13.