Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Review of "Something Rotten!"

Portions of this review are based on a previous production.

The Broadway musical Something Rotten!, a rollicking, no-holds barred extravaganza, is playing at The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford, CT through February 4th.   The show is fun, clever, and full of merriment.

It is the end of the 16th century and William Shakespeare (Adam Pascal) has achieved rock star status as the playwright everyone loves and wants to emulate.  Enter the Bottom brothers, Nick (Rob McClure) and Nigel (Josh Grisetti), that write and produce their own plays in the shadow of The Bard.  Unfortunately, they are in desperate need of a hit to keep their merry band of actors together and placate their moneyed patron.   Complicating matters is Nick’s desire to make a better life for him and his wife Bea (Maggie Lakis) and Nigel’s love for Portia (Autumn Hurlbert) the daughter of the holier-than-thou Puritan, Brother Jeremiah (Scott Cote).  In desperation, Nick turns to a demented soothsayer (Blake Hammond) to help him divine the next big thing in the theater.  His simple response of musicals sets in motion the wild, wacky and hugely entertaining Something Rotten!

The book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell is very funny, poking fun at theater conventions and musicals of the past.  They have given their large and polished ensemble of performers robust characters, not an easy feat with so many actors and actresses requiring stage time.  While the defining premise of the show is rather offbeat, the two somehow make it work. 

The score by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick is a delight.  Tuneful, zany and frenzied the songs are delivered with a full-throttled gusto by the talented cast.  From the raucous opening number, “Welcome to the Renaissance,” to the bellyaching complaints of “God, I Hate Shakespeare,” to the madcap production numbers “A Musical” and “We See the Light,” the songs have a joyful assault on our auditory senses.

The cast is led by Rob McClure, a Broadway veteran (starring roles in Chaplin and Honeymoon in Vegas), as Nick Bottom.  He is uproariously funny, a superb dancer and singer.  The success of Something Rotten! depends on a superlative performance by the misguided, resolute Bottom brother and McClure delivers with energy to spare.  Josh Grisetti, as his brother Nigel, is hysterically excitable.  It’s great to see the triple threat actor in such a form-fitting role.  Now, if someone can just write him an original Broadway musical to star in.  Adam Pacal seems like he is having a lot of fun playing the boorish, calculating Shakespeare.  Maggie Lakis, popping up intermittently, provides humorous stability.  Autumn Hurlbert shows real comic skills and pairs up perfectly with Grisetti as the sweetest of sweethearts.  Blake Hammond is rib-tickling hilarious and is an audience favorite as he leads members cast in the Act I showstopper, “A Musical.”

Director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw takes full rein of the show, making it a tightly run piece of musical theater.  Nicholaw’s work is well-thought out bringing forth superb performances by the skillful group of thespians.  As choreographer his high-octane dance numbers bring down the house.

The scenic design by Scott Pask can be whimsical; the costumes by Gregg Barnes are colorful with a slightly off-kilter take on renaissance garb.

Something Rotten!, a boisterous and jaunty ride not to be missed, playing through February 4th.

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