BWW REVIEW: Sioux Falls Welcomes SOMETHING ROTTEN! to The Washington Pavilion.
SOMETHING ROTTEN! kicked off a three-night run in Sioux Falls, SD Tuesday night, which just so happen to also be William Shakespeare's 454th birthday. What a great way to celebrate Shakespeare! As the show begins audiences discover that every day is a day to celebrate Shakespeare; the hottest writer around, a glorified rock star, in the age of the Renaissance. This Tony nominated show with book by John O'Farrel and Karey Kirkpatrick, and music and lyrics by Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick, follows the brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom as they struggle to write the next greatest play and out best their rival - the one and only William Shakespeare himself.
What could be the answer to their troubles? A musical of course!
"What the hell are musicals?" asks Nick Bottom (Matthey Michael Janisse) of Nostradamus (Greg Kalafatas) when he predicts that musicals are the next great thing in the world of 1595 theater. It's the age of the Renaissance and William Shakespeare (Matthew Baker) is all the rage, leaving Little Room for the writing duo of Brothers Bottom. With their latest play scrapped, their funding gone, and no good ideas on the horizon - eldest brother Nick seeks out soothsayer Nostradamus to help him see into the future as to what Shakespeare's biggest hit will be so he can steal the idea for himself. What Nostradamus sees is musicals, lots of musicals. Where singing and dancing exist in harmony with prose to tell a story, which is exactly what he does next. The number, "A Musical" that follows this prediction is one of the best things I've seen on stage and made my inner theater kid squeal with joy. This almost eight-minute song is filled with everything that audiences love about musical theater - cheeky jokes, a big showstopping dance number, and flashy background change. The number also drops some heavy winks and nods to some of the best shows - from AVENUE Q to RENT to JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR and A CHORUS LINE (I could go on) the show is stacked with great theater references. I counted references to almost thirty shows so be on the lookout throughout the performance!
One of the things I loved about this show was that it skillfully teeters on a line that highlights the contrasting elements within it. While the show is set in 1595, with scenery and costumes that reflect the time period, there is a modern flair to these period elements that breathe life into the show and make it relatable. The show uses modern language and themes to connect the 1500s to today, Shakespeare appears as a rock god in tight leather worthy of any 1980s glam rocker, and obsessive fans run rampant.
There is also contrast in the primary characters that balance out the show and highlight the endearing qualities of the character. Eldest brother Nick passionately hates Shakespeare. Janisse does a wonderful job at making this negative, greedy for fame, looking for the easy way out character likable. You somehow want to love him and hate him at the same time. Younger brother Nigel (Richard Spitaletta) on the other hand worships his rival playwright. The adorable awkwardness that Spitaletta brings to this a romantic optimist who wants to follow his heart in all matters, makes him instantly relatable and endearing.
The brothers' love interests complement them well and bring out the best and worst in the brothers. Nicks wife Bea (Emily Kristen Morris) is a tough lady who wants her husband to take her seriously as a partner so that both can pursue their dreams together. Morris does a wonderful job at bringing this spitfire feminist to life and owns the stage during "Right Hand Man," I think she could have even convinced George Washington to take her over Alexander Hamilton if she had the chance. Nigel has never been in love, until he meets Portia (Jennifer Elizabeth Smith), a naïve puritan girl whose father detest the arts and everything that Nigel writes. Despite being star crossed lovers like the characters in their hero's most recent play, Nigel and Portia connect over their love of poetry and romance. The chemistry between Smith and Spitaletta creates a sweet moment during "I Love the Way" where the two connect over their shared nerdy love and it's clear to audiences that they are watching a first love blossom before their eyes.
The brothers ultimately get their production of Omelet! off the ground and put on a show that is equal parts hysterical and troubling in all the right ways. If you love nerdy theater references, if you love a good tap number, or if you just love to laugh - make sure you get tickets to go see the final two shows of SOMETHING ROTTEN! while it is still playing at The Washington Pavilion in downtown Sioux Falls. It's a great show that will have you smiling the entire way through.
Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel