Not even the Black Death can bring down the brilliant humor of this spectacular production—the Renaissance is back!
And now for something completely different.
Wait—wrong show. While that line may reference Spamalot, the notion is true. The Fabulous Fox offers a theatrical breath of fresh air with a completely original show new to the Gateway City, Something Rotten! Men, hold on to your capotains, and ladies, gird your jeweled bodices, for not even the Black Death can bring down the brilliant humor of this spectacular production—the Renaissance is back!
Set in 1590s England, the Bottom brothers run a theatre troupe that is rehearsing for its production of Richard II. Meanwhile, across town, Shakespeare (Adam Pascal)—also known as “The Bard”—is opening his new play, Romeo and Juliet. As Nick Bottom (Rob McClure) and his brother, Nigel Bottom (Josh Grisetti), run their troupe through lines, the duo’s financial backer, Lord Clapham (Joel Newsome), alerts them to the fact that Shakespeare is also going to do a production of Richard II and now they must come up with another show. Frustrated and enraged that everyone in town kowtows to Shakespeare as some kind of rockstar, Nick returns home to find out from his landlord, Shylock (Jeff Brooks), that his rent is overdue.
Commiserating with his wife, Bea (Maggie Lakis), and his brother, Nick and his family dream of a better life. While Bea goes out to look for a job, Nigel goes to bed and Nick takes the last of the family’s money to go visit a fortune teller to discover what the next big trend will be in the theatre. He meets Nostradamus, well Thomas Nostradamus (Blake Hammond), who is the nephew of the infamous soothsayer. Thomas looks into the future and tells Nick the next big trend will be musicals.
Nigel later meets Portia (Autumn Hurlbert) and the two are instant star-crossed lovers. But there is a snag. Portia is the daughter of the local Puritan preacher, Brother Jeremiah (Scott Cote). The duo’s love affair must be kept a secret as her father would never approve. The pair finagle an invite to “Shakespeare in the Park” and the after-party. Shakespeare and Nigel reunite as Shakespeare used to be an actor in the brother’s troupe. He reads some of Nigel’s poetry and decides to borrow some of Nigel’s ideas for his own work.
Nick makes another trip to the fortune teller and asks what Shakespeare’s next hit was going to be in the future. Thomas tells him to write “Omelette: The Musical.” He is the nephew of Nostradamus. While the Bottom brothers try to get their show fully cooked, Shakespeare is portrayed as a writer who is secretly buckling under the intense pressure to keep writing hit after hit. He goes in disguise to take part in Nick and Nigel’s new production to see if he can lift any more ideas. While the show “Omelette: The Musical” struggles to see the light of day, Nigel and Portia’s love blossoms, and Nick ultimately learns the valuable lesson of “to thine own self be true.”
While the story may seem complex, Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrel wrote the book of the show in a way that keeps the audience thoroughly engaged with witty dialogue and larger than life characters. Brothers Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick wrote the music and lyrics of the show—another standout aspect of the production.
Songs like “God I Hate Shakespeare,” “Will Power,” and “Hard to be the Bard” kept the crowd laughing, but two numbers stood out above the rest. “A Musical” was so captivating it caused a portion of the crowd to give it a standing ovation. The magnificent lyrics—which referenced a myriad of modern musicals—and the eye-catching choreography made this number one of the best numbers I have ever seen grace the stage at The Fox. Keep an eye out for the ending sequence—the reference it makes to A Chorus Line is simply superb.
The other top-notch number of the night was “Make an Omelette.” Once again making many references to modern musicals, both the choreography and costumes used in this production made my head spin and caused me to involuntarily shout out, “You get it sister!” when a certain dairy item channeled Jennifer Holiday.
As far as the performances go, there wasn’t a bad egg in the bunch.
While it was an honor to watch Pascal bring Shakespeare to life, both McClure and Grisetti were a joy to watch work together. In fact, it was refreshing and breathtaking to see all of the cast members work as a seamless unit. Lakis and Hurlbert both gave inspired performances as did Cote, Brooks, and Newsome. From the lead roles to the amazing ensemble crew, every performance was first-class. That said, I do feel Hammond’s performance as Nostradamus was quite extraordinary. His stage presence was amazing and his ability to land a joke was impeccable. While there are enough kudos for everyone in this highly talented cast, Hammond’s performance will stay with me for a very long time.
While the show is called Something Rotten!, it is anything but. But then again, I suspect Something Amazing! or Something Tremendous! might not have the same effect. Truly a spectacle to be seen, Something Rotten! is a magnificent, magical night of musical theatre. This production may just be the crown jewel of The Fabulous Fox’s 2016-2017 season! | Jim Ryan
Something Rotten! plays at The Fabulous Fox through February 19th. For tickets and showtimes, please visit www.fabulousfox.com.
Photo: Jeremy Daniel