One’s first impression of the musical Something Rotten might be that it’s simply made up of Broadway-style singing and dancing in costumes you would find at the Renaissance Festival. And while the opening number “Welcome to the Renaissance” certainly sets you up for that, this musical delivers much more than a formulaic plot and predictable chorus set in an era beloved by many poets and players.
Something Rotten is a musical-lovers dream. Many of the jokes can only be picked up by a true theater geek, and some of them speak directly to those sitting in the audience. Produced by the makers of Spamelot and The Book of Mormon, this show has enough goofiness and cleverness to keep your attention all evening. When you have a line like, “Don’t be a penis he’s a genius” (referring to feelings about William Shakespeare) you know you have something special.
Something Rotten is about the Bottom Brothers, Nick and Nigel, who are desperately trying to write a hit play at the same time William Shakespeare is being fawned over by all of London. Nick’s hatred for the popular playwright drives him to consult with the soothsayer Nostrodomus so he can come up with a big idea for his first hit.
Nostrodomus predicts that Shakespeare’s biggest success will be a play called ‘Omelet’ and that in the future musicals will dominate the theater–and the wine at the bar will be way overpriced. Hard to believe right? Nick feverishly begins writing his musical about eggs but Nigel isn’t convinced. He falls in love with Brother Jeremiah’s Puritan daughter Portia and is preoccupied writing her love poems while Nick stages rehearsals.
After multiple attempts at sabotaging Nick’s new play, Shakespeare steals Nigel’s books of poems to produce Hamlet. When it is discovered that Nick’s musical has been funded by the Jewish man Shylock and that his musical’s gyrations are far too sensuous, the town judge banishes Nick, Nigel, Portia and Bea to America. The cycle of rebirth and creation of big new ideas starts over again in The New World.
On the opening night at the Broward Center of the Performing Arts the entire audience was erupting with laughter throughout the entire show. After the big showstopper “A Musical” when Nostrodomus shares his vision with Nick, the air felt electric with hundreds of smiling faces. The song took both lyrical and visual pieces of hit musicals and wove them throughout the song.
For example, for one moment the ensemble scrubs the floor like the orphans in Annie, and the next they are gyrating their hips like the cast of Pippin. Any person who loves musicals will have fun trying to recognize every dance number and tune.
While Blake Hammond, who plays Nostradamus, stands out among the cast by evoking throngs of laughter with his caricature of the witty soothsayer, every member of the stage in Something Rotten dominated the show with talent in his or her own right.
Maggie Lakis, who plays Nick’s wife Bea, plays out her role strongly as she fights for equal rights for women. Throughout the show she dresses up as men to get better jobs while her husband goes off in search of achieving his dreams as a playwright. While many supporting characters in musicals often come across as unimportant or fillers, Lakis strikes a strong statement for women by playing a female during the Renaissance who refuses to dote upon a man at home. This side story surprisingly doesn’t take away from the main storyline, but actually enhances it and provides even more humor for the audience to enjoy.
With countless good jokes, showstopping numbers that will make you reminisce on your favorite hits, and a deeper overarching theme about following your dreams, Something Rotten proves it is worth the ticket and another trip back to the theater.