BWW Review: SOMETHING ROTTEN Is Something Awesome at the Hobby Center
SOMETHING ROTTEN tells the story of brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom -- writers who want to produce successful plays that rival Shakespeare's. With financial pressures mounting, Nick visits a fortune teller who tips him off about the future of theatre, specifically Shakespeare's next play, Hamlet, which the seer misinterprets as "Omelette." Nick jumps at the chance to steal Shakespeare's ideas and quickly pulls together "Omelette, the Musical." Meanwhile, Nigel, a soulful poet, is writing another version of "Omelette," a heartbreaking tragedy about a Danish man named Hamlet.
Set in 1590s England, the show is chock full of anachronistic humor and wit, with many references to modern-day culture and inside jokes about several successful musicals. It's a blast for people who are familiar with musicals and Shakespeare; I giggled through most of the show. (The people with me were not theatrically knowledgeable but they still understood a lot of the humor. However, it is a cackle-fest for thespians, especially musical theatre fans.)
The book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O'Farrell is fast-paced, funny and razor-sharp. While there is some base sexual innuendo, the humor in general is very funny, if juvenile, but in the very best of ways. Think irony of PRINCESS BRIDE mixed with the irreverence of the SHREK movies. Mel Brooks fans will enjoy it. It's a farcical feast.
With music and lyrics by Karey Kirkpatrick and Wayne Kirkpatrick, the show is a toe-tapper and often inspired with hilarious lyrics and catchy tunes. SOMETHING ROTTEN is musically fresh and unpredictable in many ways. It is also demanding of the singer-actors; many songs are packed with lyrics and interesting musical configurations.
Directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, the cast is first-rate. I honestly couldn't picture a better cast lineup. (I tend to make mental casting adjustments. Not this time.) Rob McClure is perfect (that's right, perfect) as Nick Bottom, the older and more dominant of the Bottom brothers. McClure's performance is funny, brash, witty and bright. His singing voice is just as strong and beautiful as his comedic timing. Josh Grisetti plays the sensitive Nigel with nuance, a lovely voice and great comic timing, especially when interacting with Portia, the Puritan damsel who captures his heart. Autumn Hurlbert plays said damsel, and does a great job of it, balancing the demure with the comedic. Maggie Lakis plays the irrepressible Bea, Nick's down-to-earth wife. Lakis is fun to watch and the relationship between she and Nick is refreshing. Bea is a plucky self-starter, sort of a prequel to the women's movement, and a lot of her lines play up the progress (or lack thereof) of equality. Lakis is especially funny as she dons various disguises, trying to pass as a man. And then, of course, there's Shakespeare. Adam Pascal (of RENT fame) struts around the stage, marinating in animal magnetism, as he portrays the bard of all bards. Was Shakespeare ever this arrogant? Or sexy? I doubt it. But it works for this production, with it's over-the-top anachronisms (see: leather pants) and silly twists on Elizabethan life.
The supporting characters are just as strong and entertaining. Blake Hammond is hilarious as the dotty, misguided Thomas Nostradamus, a psychic who can see fragments of the future. ("A Musical" is one of the best numbers of the production, with Nostradamus trying to explain what a musical is to Nick.) As the puritanical Puritan leader Brother Jeremiah, Scott Cote puts a new spin on an uptight and judgmental leader, literally pointing fingers at everyone. His portrayal is anything but reverent and it's a laugh riot.
The songs are biting and comically honest. "God, I Hate Shakespeare" is a cranky crack up, with Nick ranting about his biggest competitor. (After whining the title line several times, the ensemble retorts, "Yes, we sorta get that you really hate Shakespeare.") "Right Hand Man" is sung winningly by Lakis. The aforesaid "A Musical" brings the house down and then some. "The Black Death" had me tittering through the whole song. "I Love The Way" is sweet in the best way as Nigel and Portia fall in love. Other standouts are "We See The Light" in which Puritans jam on a gospel tune, and "Make An Omelette," which is dorky good fun.
The sets are large and colorful and seemingly endless. Scenic designer Scott Pask really had his work cut out for him -- I counted at least seven sets. The alley in which Nick meets Nostradamus is a highlight, with its moody colors and hunched buildings. "A Musical" has eye candy galore and designer Jeff Croiter wows the crowd with lots of glitz and gorgeous lighting.
Casey Nicholaw's choreography is joyful and so fun to watch. The cast is full of talented dancers who can handle many genres, including some mean tap dancing.
SOMETHING ROTTEN is lighter fare -- if you're looking for something with a deep, meaningful plot, look elsewhere. The strength of the show is an unflagging pace and non-stop comedy. And the stellar cast doesn't hurt either.
SOMETHING ROTTEN will run through June 11 at the Hobby Center. For more information, visit thehobbycenter.org.
Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel