BWW Review: There's Something Rotten in Sacramento!
In 1848, a Lutheran scholar named Samuel Mosheim Schmucker first raised the question as to how an uneducated and untraveled man such as William Shakespeare could have penned 37 plays and 154 sonnets that dealt with subjects that he should have no knowledge of. Since then many people have cast their doubts about the identity of the Bard, including Mark Twain and Sigmund Freud. Most recently, with a book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O'Farrell and music and lyrics by Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick, the Tony-nominated Something Rotten! hilariously takes a look at Shakespeare as a plagiarist.
Something Rotten! follows two brothers, Nick and Nigel Bottom, who are struggling to make ends meet and trying to emerge from the shadow of Shakespeare by writing their own hit play. After many failures, Nick decides to visit a soothsayer, Thomas Nostradamus, who is a descendant of THE Nostradamus. Thomas advises him that the next big thing in theatre is the musical, which leads to the show stopping number, "A Musical," which garnered the only mid-show standing ovation that I have ever witnessed.
Meanwhile, Nigel has met and fallen in love with a poetry-loving Puritan, Portia, whose father forbids her to see him. Nick and Nigel are still having no luck with producing a new show, so Nick visits Thomas again to find out what Shakespeare's greatest success will be. Thomas misinterprets his vision to mean "omelet," so Nick sets out to write a musical based on breakfast. Nigel feels that this approach is completely wrong and goes to talk to Portia about it. While there, her father appears and sends her to be confined to a tower forever.
Disconsolate, Nigel pens a work that is straight from his heart, including "to sleep, perchance to dream" (To Thine Own Self), that Shakespeare immediately recognizes as a work of genius. Nick is still insistent on producing "Omelette, the Musical," so Nigel leaves in a fit of anger and is followed by Shakespeare, who appropriates the manuscript under the guise of improving it.
Nick's show takes the stage in ridiculous yet funny numbers such as "Something Rotten!" and "Make an Omelette" (yes, dancing omelets). As expected, it fails miserably and Nick and Nigel end up being charged with different crimes that have been brought forth by Shakespeare to get them out of the way. To avoid beheading, they leave for America-ostensibly to begin the birth of the musical.
Something Rotten! has something for everyone. Peppered with sexual innuendo, clever Shakespearean references and nods to several Broadway musicals (I lost count at around 12), it will still capture the hearts of those who don't catch the content with its colorful costumes, dazzling lighting, and energetic tap numbers. True musical lovers should go to take the challenge of how many musicals they can recognize and Stratfordians will revel in matching the Shakespearean reference to the work.
Three cast members from Broadway make this a truly memorable experience. Rob McClure carries the show as Nick Bottom, Adam Pascal is a huge draw as Shakespeare, and Josh Grisetti rounds out the trio as Nigel Bottom. Also noteworthy is Broadway alum Blake Hammond as a vocal and comedic powerhouse playing Thomas Nostradamus.
As Nostradamus says, "Nothing's as amazing as a musical!"
Something Rotten! is playing at the Sacramento Community Center Theater from January 2-January 7, 2018. Tickets may be purchased at the Wells Fargo Pavilion Box Office, 1419 H Street, Sacramento, or by calling (916) 557-1999. They are also available at the Community Center Theater Box Office at 1301 L Street, Sacramento, or by calling (916) 808-5181, or online at Tickets.com.
Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel