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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 22, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 38
Something Rotten! is far from foul
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Something Rotten! is far from foul

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

SOMETHING ROTTEN!
5TH AVENUE THEATRE
Through October 1


Something Rotten! is the current hit musical playing at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre. The show, originally to have had its world debut in Seattle, was bypassed directly from workshops to Broadway, and the work was not in haste. A simultaneous homage to the works of Shakespeare and musical theatre, it is easy to see why the musical was nominated for the Tony for Best Musical.

The story takes place during the English Renaissance and at the height of William Shakespeare's career. Shakespeare is hailed as a rock star to the wondrous praise from all except playwright brothers, Nick and Nigel Bottom. They were the ones that encouraged Shakespeare to turn from awful actor to playwright, and now bitterly resent his success. After engaging a soothsayer, a man named Nostradamus (a distant cousin of the famous one), it is revealed that the hits of the future are plays with songs and dancing in them. It is a new concept called The Musical. After a confusing vision the prophet also reveals that Shakespeare's greatest play is yet to be written. Nick decides to take both prophecies and combines them in an attempt to upstage Shakespeare and create the world's first musical.

The entire ensemble of this show are all incredibly enjoyable. The supporting roles all have their moments to shine and none try to steal individual attention away from the lead characters. Autumn Hurlbert plays 'Portia,' the Puritan Preacher's daughter with an empathetic heart for poets, and serves as the love interest for Nigel Bottom. Ms. Hurlbert is perfect as the innocent ingénue. Her voice is clear and her iridescence is easily noted. The same can be said of Maggie Lakis who plays 'Bea,' the ambitiously equality seeking wife of Nick Bottom. Ms. Lakis' talent is there, with a good voice for the duet 'Right Hand Man.'

The role of Shakespeare arguably straddles the thin line between what is a 'supporting' role and what is a 'leading' one. Adam Pascal (the original 'Roger' in RENT) plays William Shakespeare as a rock star by circumstances. Privately admitting to theft for his best works, Shakespeare enjoys the praise and profits. Pascal's presence is undeniably strong and his voice is just as noteable. His song 'Hard to Be the Bard' is a comic pleasure. Even playing 'camp,' Pascal brings that extra something to the role that is the reason why he is a star.

There are three main roles that are all brilliantly done. Josh Grisetti plays the younger Bottom brother, 'Nigel.' He exudes as the goofy, younger brother with the writing talents who falls in love with the Puritan's daughter. His character is easily likeable and his voice is strong. His reactions on stage are comical without being camp and his performance was a pleasure to watch.

Blake Hammond plays the bargain prophet, 'Nostradamus.' From the very moment he takes the stage, Mr. Hammond's presence is understood as being the scene stealing character. His movements are smooth, his character is larger than life without being over the top, and his songs are enjoyable. 'Nostradamus' is given the showstopping (literally) number 'A Musical,' and it is for good reason. He leads the number with precision while randomly jumping from numerous musical homages, to some of the most recognizable clips of musical history. Mr. Hammond's performance is pure delight and magical to watch.

Rob McClure is the ambitious actor 'Nick Bottom.' Bitterly resentful of Shakespeare's success, he leads the ensemble in the delightful musical theme of the night, 'God, I Hate Shakespeare.' This is a man who knows comic timing in all forms, including staging, movement and singing. Mr. McClure excels in his role and brings a touch of bitter buffoonery that is easily forgiven by his driving ambition.

Real life brothers Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick wrote the music and lyrics for the show. Karey Kirkpatrick and John O'Farrell wrote the script. The songs are fun and clever, especially the aforementioned 'God, I Hate Shakespeare' and 'A Musical.' The lyrics are easy to understand and the music is definitely hummable, and there's not much more you can want from a musical. The book is cleverly written. Although it does at times border on it, the script never fully enters the forbidden realm of cliché and still lets the audience think to understand all the references and comments.

Something Rotten! is a fun musical that does what musical theatre is supposed to do; it provides escape. The music is good, the lyrics are clever, the story makes one think and it's fun. If you are not a theatre fan, the show is still enjoyable, and if you are a theatre fan; be prepared to catch quick lines, subtle references, and over the top remarks. There are only two things I can say that I found negative about Something Rotten! - one of them with the show itself, and one of them not. The role of the Brother Jeremiah (played by Scott Cote) is a 'holier than thou' character that is written to be a hypocritically closeted homosexual. The jokes and mincing motions ran a little too long for my taste and while still staying at the furthest edges of humor, the realms of offense were in sight. The second offense was taken with the four people sitting in front of me. Obviously this quartet was enjoying their cocktails and conversations so much, they continued it throughout most of the performance. Despite several polite attempts to remind them of the simultaneous 'other performance,' their loud, disruptive commentary and conversation continued through both acts. What added insult to injury is that during intermission they greeted the theatre's Managing Director as if they were close friends; thus they should have known better theatre etiquette, and shame on them.

Something Rotten! started workshops in 2014 with a Pre-Broadway plan to open at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre. After taking advantage of an opportunity, the show skipped Seattle for its Broadway debut on March 23, 2015. The show ran for over 700 performances and was nominated for nine Tony Awards in the 2015 Season. The actor Christian Borle (playing Shakespeare) would win the show's only Tony Award for Best Actor in a Featured Role (Musical).

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