Something Rotten

Melinda Schupmann Reviews - Theater

When Something Rotten premiered on Broadway in 2015, the critics gave it mixed reviews. Some called it puerile, others hilarious. Still it went on to garner nominations for most aspects of the show from the Tonys, Drama Desk, and Drama League. It even earned a Grammy nomination for the album and spawned a national tour a couple of years later.


Now it is being produced by Musical Theatre West at the Carpenter Center with a gaggle of accomplished actors and an enthusiastic ensemble of singers and dancers who earned sustained cheers on opening night following some elaborate  production numbers. It is a frothy bit of theater-insider gags relating to over 82 different Broadway musicals. Even if you haven't seen them all, the show can still be enjoyed for its exuberance.


Nigel (Beau Brians)  and Nick Bottom (Eric Peterson) are the leaders of a theatrical troupe whose greatest competitor is William Shakespeare. Nigel does the writing, and Nick is the director and general leader. The Bard (Grasan Kingsberry) in this case is a flamboyant rockstar whose adulation by audiences irks Nick, prompting "God, I Hate Shakespeare," one of several witty songs in the play. His obsession leads Nick to a soothsayer, Thomas Nostradamus (Davis Gaines), whose vision is that the future of theater is musicals. As he searches for a title, Omelette is his prediction. Since this would be a first in the 1590's, all the misadventures henceforth make for some clever and enjoyable moments.

One of their first problems with musical production is from a group of Puritans led by Brother Jeremiah (Dedrick Bonner), a bombastic do-gooder. His daughter, Portia (Madison Claire Parks), isn't fully on board with the stringent rules of the faith, and she falls for Nigel, leading to ongoing tribulations for the pair. Further complications ensue when Nigel wants to branch out with his poetry, and Nick isn't supportive.

Money plays another part in the complications for the theater company. Their initial benefactor, Lord Clapham (Roland Rusinek), is frustrated by their choice of plays and withdraws his support until they come up with a better choice. This leads to allowing a Jew, Shylock (Rusinek, again), to invest even though Jews are not allowed to be employed.

In a parallel story, Nick's wife, Bea (Chelle Denton), realizing their need for money, disguises herself as a man so she can earn a living. Her various incarnations add to Nick's anxieties and some great comic moments for her. Shakespeare, hearing that a musical is in the offing, disguises himself as Toby Belch, auditions, and becomes part of the company so he can steal the script for Omelette.

By this time, the storyline has as many twists and turns as are necessary for more than a dozen songs, elaborately choreographed production numbers, and last minute reprieves for all the complications in the story. It may be a little too ambitious, and the ending may suffer a bit from the requisite tidying, but it is refreshing to watch.

Denton and Peterson are appealing in numbers like "Right Hand Man," and Denton is particularly good in her reprise of the number with a fine voice. Gaines is a delight, proving his abilities to handle character acting as well as more dramatic roles. He comports himself well in the production number "A Musical," a long compilation of over 20 different shows. Parks and Brians make appealing lovers, and their "I Love the Way" is a fine duet. Bonner plays a conservative and then flagrantly rainbow-garbed incarnation with abandon.

In supporting roles playing off A Midsummer Night's Dream, Erik Scott Romney as Tom Snout, Eric Stretch as Robin, Justin Goei as Snug, Antwone Barnes as Peter Quince and Landon Swick as Frances Flute add energy to the scenes. Antoine T. Lee is even thrown in as Yorick, giving a nod to Hamlet.

Also providing fine support for the production is the ensemble: Leo Ayala, Bernadette Bentley, Quintan Craig, Mia Davidson, Jennifer Know, Drew Lake, Valerie Larsen, MacKenzie Perpich, Tanner Rampton, and Beth Roy.

Director Josh Grisetti, who also performed Nigel in the New York production, leads the cast in a brisk, well executed play. Giving a nod to the Globe Theater, working from the stage and stage apron, the scenic changes can be as fluid as necessary as the actors traverse the locations.

Led by the multi-talented Music Director Dennis Castellano, numbers like "Welcome to the Renaissance" give the show its Broadway sizzle. Choreographer Eric Sciotto also puts his cast through some engaging numbers, including "It's Eggs" with some fine visuals.

Costumes by Robin I. McGee are colorful, and scenery/lighting (Paul Black) and sound (Terry Dycus) easily fill the bill. Wigs are nicely done by Michon Gruber-Gonzales.

This show makes a great addition to MTW's season. It's big, it's fun, and it has enough wit to engage and dazzle to delight. Judging by the audience's reception, it should be a winner for the company.