BWW Review: SOMETHING ROTTEN! at SHEA'S BUFFALO Theatre
Oh, remember those great mega-musicals from the 90's? There was LES MISERABLES AND PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and OMELETTE: MUSICAL...Well OMELETTE was the little known musical from the 1590's, not 1990's, that is the subject of the riotous National Tour now playing at Shea's Buffalo Theatre, aptly named SOMETHING ROTTEN!
You take a great risk by naming a show SOMETHING ROTTEN!, but it is far from a rotten affair. The clever concept takes us back to the Renaissance when William Shakespeare was a superstar of the magnitude of Elvis, and two down on their luck writers with the unlikely last name of Bottom can't achieve Shakespearean status. Nick Bottom seeks advice from that famous soothsayer Nostradamus who portends the next best thing in the theatre will be something called a "musical," so Nick and his brother Nigel get to work to write the biggest (and probably worst) musical the 16th Century has ever seen.
Writers Karey Kirkpatrick and John O'Farrell have written a super silly book, while Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick composed the catchy music and lyrics. With nods to Monty Python, the book is filled with anachronisms, double entendres, and more musical theatre references that one could possibly imagine. But it is the spot-on direction and choreography by Casey Nicholaw that elevates the show from camp to inspired comic genius. Mr. Nicholaw has directed such blockbusters as THE BOOK OF MORMON and THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, and this man knows comedy. Sight gags, vocal coloration, absurd posturing--they are all there and only add to the comedy, without overwhelming the audience by appearing "over-directed."
The top notch cast is filled with A+ Broadway talent. Rob McClure as Nick is a joy to watch, finding every bit of humor while singing his heart out as the exasperated playwright who wants to make OMELETTE the musical that puts Shakespeare to shame. Josh Grisetti is younger brother Nigel, and he is hilarious. Tall and gangly, and uncomfortable in his own skin, Grisetti has a lovely tenor voice and great comic timing.
Blake Hammond as Nostradamus is given the best number in the score, "A Musical." Explaining to the Bottom brothers what the future of musicals will be, Hammond cites so many musicals from ANNIE to SOUTH PACIFIC to PIPPIN with split second precision that the result is pure theatrical bliss. Talk about a show stopper!
Broadway veteran Adam Pascal, of RENT and AIDA fame, plays Shakespeare and is having a rollicking good time. With his bare chest exposed under his tunic and skin tight leggings, he is made up to be a walking theatre God. The adoration poured upon him is gleeful and his Act II number "Hard to Be the Bard" allows his to strut, gyrate and be revered. Mr. Pascal oozes star presence and his voice rocks the house.
The show is heavy on male parts, ala the authentic theatre practices of the times when women weren't allowed on stage. Autumn Hurlbert is charming and winsome as the Puritan maiden Portia, who breaks ranks to be with Nigel. Maggie Lakis as Nick's wife Bea has a great Broadway belting voice and holds her own with the large male dominated cast. Mr. Nicholaw has choreographed great dances and puts the talented and energetic male ensemble through their paces, employing every style of dance imaginable.
The quick paced scene changes and handsome back drops were designed by Scott Pask, while the super talented TONY Award winning Costume Designer Gregg Barnes has fashioned brightly colored Elizabethan costumes. His tongue in cheek designs have fresh modern references but aren't afraid to push the design limits with exaggerated cod pieces and neon colors.
The climax of the show occurs as the troupe finally presents their musical. During "Something Rotten!" and "Make an Omelette" I kept harkening back to the film "THE PRODUCERS" as the camera pans across a dazed audience watching the "Springtime for Hitler" number. The disbelief over the pure comic absurdity that is playing out can only be deemed a jubilant triumph. SOMETHING ROTTEN! was written to put a smile on your face and giggle, without having any lofty visions of dramatic glory- It surely succeeds!
SOMETHING ROTTEN! plays at Shea's Buffalo Theatre through March 11, 2018. Contact sheas.org for more information and tickets.