Review by Nathan Top
The English Renaissance is not normally a time associated with effervescent tap dancing, colorful costumes, or bouts of feminist humor. However, CCM’s production of “Something Rotten” combines all of those ingredients into a two-and-a-half hour unbridled musical romp that might possibly be the most fun musical happening in town.
With music, lyrics and book written by Karey Kirkpatrick, Wayne Kirkpatrick, and John O’Farrell, the Tony nominated musical begins with an introduction to the Renaissance where brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom are struggling to put on an original successful play. Fed up with constantly being overshadowed by the pompous and popular Shakespeare, Nick seeks the assistance of Nostradamus, the local soothsayer with the ability to see the future (sort of). When the soothsayer reveals the future of theater, Nick Bottom sets his mind to creating the latest and greatest creation the folks of England have ever seen: a musical.
Director and choreographer Diane Lala milks every ounce of humor out of the zesty book and score, leaning into the over-the-topness the show requires. The dance numbers are raucous and joyful, with several memorable tap dancing numbers throughout the show. Musical director Matt Welsh creates some glowing musical moments of synchrony between cast and pit, especially in the larger chorus numbers. Scenic designer Joshua Gallagher has created a beautiful set that swallows the stage and transports the audience, capturing both the classical period and the zany newfangled spirit of the story.
Lighting designer Natalia Carlson’s design perfectly interacts with the movement of shows and sound designer Patrick Kiernan does some of the best sound design I have heard from a CCM production. Costume designer Glenn Breed has created some animated outfits that have their own featured reveals throughout and wig, hair, and make-up designer Kelly Yurko has done some inspired work with the flamboyant cast of characters.
Opening the show with the animated number “Welcome to the Renaissance” is the magnetic Jamal Stone playing the Minstrel, setting an impeccable tone for the rest of the show. August Bagg and Jett Blackorby have tangible character chemistry as brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom and Jackson Reagin shows his strong physical comedy chops as the pious Puritan Brother Jeremiah. Rose Messenger (Bea) knocks her big act-one musical number out of the park, “Right Hand Man.” Garret Van Allen serves up some hilariously cocky Josh-Groban-esque vibes as the Bard himself, smashing his two features “Will Power” and “Hard to Be the Bard.”
Hayley Root is charming and empathetic as the poetry lover Portia. Show-stealer Spencer Stanley, as soothsayer Thomas Nostradamus, brings the audience to their feet with his act-one musical feature “A Musical.” These show-stopping numbers would not be possible without an impeccable cast of dancers/vocalists/supporting ensemble and, honestly, CCM could not have a better cast for this vivacious production.
Whether you’re a Shakespeare lover or a Shakespeare hater, CCM’s production “Something Rotten” is comedic gold and dazzling to boot. Running now through October 30th, tickets can be purchased here.
Nathan Top is a Cincinnati-based playwright and musician. Nathan works as a freelance trumpeter and pianist, performing in big bands, pit orchestras, and pop groups throughout the area.