‘Something Rotten’ turns Shakespeare Bottoms up


High-kicking, high-energy cast of Something Rotten at Marriott Theatre. (Liz Loren photo)
High-kicking, high-energy cast of Something Rotten at Marriott Theatre. (Liz Loren photo)

3 stars

It’s silly, It’s clever. It’s creative. It’s laugh-out-loud absurd

It’s “Something Rotten,” the 2015 Tony nominated musical with witty lyrics by Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick and unusual book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell that is now making its regional debut at Marriott Theatre.

In 1595 England, show manager/ director Nick Bottom and his brother, playwright/poet Nigel, aren’t worried that something is rotten in Denmark. As their acting troupe fails to put on a successful show, they worry about financing, finding an original play idea and their inability to compete with William Shakespeare.

To set the character of the era, the opening number has the Minstrel (Jonathan Butler Duplessis) gloriously sing out, “Welcome to the Renaissance,” joined by a large company of dancers and singers. The era is also well set by Theresa Ham’s costumes

Something Rotten” moves from one fun musical number “God, I Hate Shakespeare” sung by the brothers and their troupe, to another – “Will Power” sung rock-concert style by Shakespeare and his ensemble of fans.

Nigel, played with his usual adeptness at comic naivety, by Marriott regular Alex Goodrich, happens to be one of Shakespeare’s fans and is taken in by Will’s complimentary interest in Nigel’s sonnets. However, knowing what each other plans goes both ways as witnessed shortly.

When Nick, delightfully interpreted by Broadway and National Tour regular K. J. Hippensteel, seeks out Thomas Nostradamus, the prophet’s nephew, the soothsayer predicts the next really big thing in theater will be musicals.

Brilliantly portrayed by Ross Lehman, Nostradamus sings and dances to explain that yes, people break out into song in the middle of a scene or tap dance their feelings of joy.

Joined by Nick and the ensemble, he leads the group in the high kicking, high energy, show-stopping “A Musical.” Gloriously choreographed by Alex Sanchez with musical direction by Ryan t. Nelson, the number wonderfully mashes together more than a dozen hit musicals from “Annie” and “Seventy-Six Trombones” to “Cats” and “South Pacific.”

However, merely knowing that musicals will be big is not enough for the brothers. They want to know what Shakespeare’s next play will be. Nostradamus tries to tune into the future and comes up with “Omelet” instead of Hamlet.

No spoiler alerts here about the result.

Although the show is long at 2 hours, 25 minutes, it is a fun romp across Shakespearean names and phrases. And the age when men play women’s roles gets a  thumbing the nose by Nick’s feminist wife, Bea, played by Marriott regular Cassie Slater who has the chops to put across “Right Hand Man.”

Her husband and brother-in-law encounter her later dressed as a man as she takes on men’s jobs to bring in some sorely-needed cash.

But I believe, and heard a few others in the audience remark, that some characters in Shakespeare should be left out of a friendly farce because they insult ethnic groups.  Shylock, who offers to finance the Bottoms’ troupe, is one example. Fortunately, Iago (the Othello villain), is omitted.

The dumb-down stuff sometimes goes unnecessarily over the top such as the first grade-style schoolyard “are-so, am-not” silliness between a Bottom and Shakespeare who is played as a 16th century rock-star by Marriott veteran Adam Jacobs.

If your bottom can manage sitting so long, you will find the Bottoms quite entertaining.

DETAILS:”Something Rotten” is at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Dr., Lincolnshire, IL, through Oct. 20, 2019. Running time: 2 hours, about 25 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and other information visit Marriott Theatre.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago




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