BWW Review: SOMETHING ROTTEN! (and very funny) was afoot at Broadway San Jose!
Something Rotten! recently played the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts and it was crazy good. How to explain the show's particularly zany, Renaissance England, campy craziness? Well, it's as if all the high school theatre geeks on all the campuses across the country, magically got together and concocted their dream show: "A musical...with song and dance and sweet romance...big and shiny, mighty fine-y, glitter, glitz and chorus line-y, bob your head and shake your heiney, musical!" It's all that and more.
The show, with a book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O'Farrell, music and lyrics by Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick garnered nine Tony nominations including Best Musical and won for Christian Borle and his sexy-funny - is that a thing? - portrayal of Will Shakespeare.
The year: 1595. The setting: Merry old England. London Town, to be precise. The Plot: Two theatrically-minded brothers struggle to come up with a hit show, but they're competing against the toast of the town, none other than Will Shakespeare himself (played here with rock star perfection by Matthew Baker) and his wildly popular plays. (Is it odd that out of the entire cast, only Shakespeare has a British accent?)
Serious-minded older brother Nick Bottom (the dashing Matthew Michael Janisse) and his poet-at-heart younger brother Nigel (a starry-eyed Richard Spitaletta), are tired of getting one-upped by the Bard, but their backer, Lord Clapham (Peter Surace) is threatening to pull the plug on them unless they come up with a new play by morning. Pilfering money from the family money box, right under the noses of his wife, Bea (the glorious Emily Kristen Morris), Nick goes on the lookout for a soothsayer to help him come up with a new idea for a hit show. Sadly, for Nick, but great for the audience, he finds Thomas Nostradamus (Greg Kalafatas), nephew of the great prognosticator himself. Kalafatas seems to channel a combo of comedic goof-ball legend Rip Torn and the Wizard of Oz character in both Wicked and the Judy Garland film. He is fantastic. His entrance onto the scene brings Nick, not an idea for a show, but a whole new genre - musical theatre.
Director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw (a Junior Theatre alum) pulls out all the stops to make the hearts of all his fellow theater geeks stomp in double time. The pièce de résistance is the wonderfully choreographed showstopper, "A Musical." Clocking in at eight minutes and referencing at least twenty Broadway musicals, it's a glorious number replete with great costumes (Gregg Barnes), tap dancing, fan dancing, canes, trilling trumpets (arrangements by Glen Kelly), big number lighting (Jeff Croiter), meticulous sound (Peter Hylenski) and the requisite kick line. It's a feast for the eyes and ears, and it advances the plot, as every good show tune should.
It's a bit of fluff that's easy on the brain, but you absolutely forget your troubles and isn't that a great gift in these troubling times? Tony Award-winning playwright Rupert Holmes would love Something Rotten! He's fond of saying that his musical writing goal is to distract theatre audiences long enough to make them forget that they have a dentist appointment the next day. This show does that in spades. A frothy plot, crass jokes, tap dancing eggs - what more could you ask for? How about skewering a plagiarizing Shakespeare, a nod toward all your favorite musicals, and a musical about writing the first musical? It was all there, folks!
Something Rotten ran through February 3, 2019
San Jose Center for Performing Arts, 255 Almaden Boulevard, San Jose, CA
Tickets: broadwaysanjose.com or 669.242.8555
Photos: Jeremy Daniel