By Alan Jozwiak
Imagine you’re an actor trying to find the next big thing in theatre. Imagine that you go to a soothsayer to learn that the next big thing is something called a musical. Failing at your first attempt at writing a musical and being taunted by Shakespeare, imagine you go back to that soothsayer to ask for Shakespeare’s greatest play, deciding to turn it into a musical before Shakespeare has a chance to write it. Imagine that the play is not Hamlet, but a play about eggs in which you end up writing a musical about eggs called Omelet the Musical.
This is the premise behind CCM Musical Theatre’s latest offering, the musical Something Rotten. Set within Renaissance England during the time of Shakespeare, this musical tells the story of Nick Bottom (Nick Pattarini) who faces the above scenario and has to battle his nemesis William Shakespeare (Garrett Van Allen).
Written as a tongue-in-cheek examination of Shakespeare’s England, Something Rotten is a delightful musical filled with toe-tapping numbers and plenty of tap dancing. Director and Choreographer Diane Lala ensures that dancing is a major strength of this show. You will be amazed at the virtuosity of the dancers in “Welcome to the Renaissance” and “Bottom’s Gonna Be On Top.” Matt Welsh is the phenomenal musical director. This production proves why so many CCM students end up on Broadway.
Costuming is equally strong. Costume Designer Glenn Breed assembled an amazing and stunning array of clothes for the various characters. These characters draw the audience more into the action of the story and express the personalities of the characters. Nigel Bottom (Andrew Burke), brother of Nick Bottom, wears a fully buttoned doublet expressing his awkwardness and anxiety, while Shakespeare’s costume (from his open doublet to his enlarged codpiece) expresses his confident bearing.
The principle performers are quite strong. Pattarini and Burke work well together as the Bottom brothers and each has great moments on stage. Pattarini’s Nick Bottom is a standout with his songs “Bottom’s Gonna Be On Top” and “Something Rotten.” These songs showcase his ability to belt and demonstrate his angst at not being able to best Shakespeare. Burke plays a perfect naïf with Nigel Bottom. He has excellent comic timing and delivers seemingly innocent lines in ways that are hysterically funny. Burke is able to meld his comedic instincts with strong singing with songs such as “I Love The Way.”
Garrett Van Allen does a great job as The Bard. Instead of projecting his energy outwards, Van Allen takes the approach of a jaded rock star whose energy is more turned inward. He plays The Bard with equal parts ennui, arrogance, and narcissism who is above everything, but desperate to remind people that he very much desires their attention and accolades. Van Allen is a wonderful mix of singing and dancing, doing a great job with songs like “Will Power” and “Hard To Be The Bard.”
The two female leads, Nick’s wife Bea (Abby Tucker) and Portia (Alli Bossart), are also standouts. Tucker is able to dress up as different workmen and play different parts beautifully. She is strong in singing Bea’s main song “Right Hand Man.” Bossart is equally strong playing the sheltered Puritan Portia. Bossart is able to match Burke’s comedic instinct and sounds beautiful in songs such as “I Love The Way.”
Last, by no means least, Spencer Stanley is a standout as the soothsayer Nostradamus. Stanley’s comedic timing is excellent and he knows how to project that befuddled soothsaying. Nostradamus only has one major song, the show stopping “A Musical” and Stanley delivers this number with great relish and verve.
While “Something Rotten” is making its rounds among different college and community theatres in the area, the strong performances of its cast and the amazing costuming make this a must-see CCM production . You’ll be humming some of the songs when you leave and glad you spent the time in the theatre. This is a feel-good musical for these uncertain times.
Something Rotten runs from October 20 to October 30, with evening performances running Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 pm and matinee performances running Saturdays and Sundays at 2 pm. Also note, there is double casting for many of the principal roles. Click HERE for casting and ticketing information.
Alan Jozwiak is a local playwright, UC English Composition instructor, Comics Scholar and has been with with LCT for over 10 years.