Saturday, January 06, 2018

Something Rotten

It is fair to say that “Something Rotten,” currently at the Sacramento Community Center, is the funniest show you will see all year (and this includes a year in which “Book of Mormon” is also included).

This hilarious musical, written by brothers Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick, with John O’Farrell’s assistance on the book, is, at its heart, an homage not only to William Shakespeare, but also to just about every Broadway musical ever written.

I would also add, as an aside, that this may be the first musical I have attended at the Community Center where there was absolutely no difficulty understanding the actors on stage.

The story follows the Bottom brothers, Nick and Nigel (Rob McClure and Josh Grisetti), playwrights in Renaissance England (“Welcome to the Renaissance” is a wonderful opening number led by the Minstrel, Nick Rashad Burroughs).

The brothers are determined to make a name in show biz, but they keep being overshadowed by that rock star William Shakespeare (Adam Pascal), who sneaks looks at Nigel’s notebook and steals all his best ideas.

Nick is married to Bea (Maggie Lakis) a Renaissance feminist who is incensed about the inequality of women and determined to prove that a woman can do anything a man can do (“Right Hand Man”).
Frustrated by Shakespeare’s popularity (“I Hate Shakespeare”), Nick grumbles about how “a mediocre actor from a measly little town is suddenly the brightest jewel in England’s royal crown.”

He takes the family savings and hires a soothsayer (Blake Hammond) to learn what the next big thing in entertainment will be — and what Shakespeare’s next project will be.

Nostradamus, the soothsayer, tells him he should write a musical, where a character, for no reason whatsoever, will suddenly break into song, which audiences will love because it’s easier to understand than iambic pentameter. Musicals are unheard of at the time and will guarantee an audience lining up to get into the theater, Nostradamus predicts. “A Musical” is by far the hit number of the show and earns a lengthy standing ovation from the audience.

Nostradamus also struggles to understand what Shakespeare’s next play will be about but misunderstands it and only knows it is “something Danish,” so Nick and Nigel set out to write the first breakfast musical, “Omelette.”

Having lost their backer, who thinks they are crazy, they agree to accept help from the moneylender, Shylock (Jeff Brooks), a Jewish man whose dream is to be in theater, though it is forbidden for Jews to participate.

There has to be a love angle and Nigel falls in love with the poetry-loving Portia (Autumn Hurlbert), whose father, Brother Jeremiah (Scott Cote), a puritan preacher, is determined to shut down all theater (but who seems to be inordinately interested in the men involved …). Portia encourages Nigel to be true to himself.

This is a comedy which is rife with bad puns, gay jokes and phallic humor, though on a much milder (and possibly funnier) level than “The Book of Mormon.”

It is a thoroughly delightful evening that left the audience laughing even after the curtain came down. A must-see for Shakespeare fans and musical comedy fans alike.

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