Reviewed by George Basler
Shakespeare is universally recognized as the greatest playwright in the English language. But did you know he was also an Elizabethan rock star complete with screaming groupies, flashy dance numbers and an over-inflated ego?
That’s just one piece of zaniness on display in the musical Something Rotten!, which opened Thursday and will run through Sunday (Nov. 11-14) at the Endicott Performing Arts Center, 102 Washington Ave., Endicott.
The show, set in Renaissance England, features the unlikely coupling of Shakespeare and Broadway musical comedy. It’s clever, irreverent and just plain laugh-out-loud funny.
While the concept is wonderful fun, it requires creativity and skill to pull off. EPAC does this with verve to spare. The large cast — 23 people in all — perform with great gusto and make the EPAC production a solid smash.
The songs in Something Rotten! are catchy and hummable, but the emphasis is on the comedy. Brothers Karey Kirkpatrick and Wayne Kirkpatrick, who did the music and lyrics, and John O’Farrell, who co-wrote the book, have created a valentine that lovingly spoofs such Broadway hits as Les Miserables, Annie, Fiddler on the Roo, and Phantom of the Opera. And, yes, Shakespeare comes in for some jibes as well.
The plot focuses on Nick Bottom (Vito Longo), a struggling London playwright who resents the fact that Shakespeare has become the toast of the town. Nick hatches the idea of having a soothsayer (Scott Newman) peer into the future and find Shakespeare’s most famous play. Nick then plans to steal the idea and turn it into a musical that will rock Elizabethan audiences. Suffice to say, things go hilariously wrong.
Along for the ride are Nick’s long-suffering wife, Bea (Megan Germond); his sweet but socially awkward brother, Nigel (Caleb Park), and Portia (Jana Kucera), the poetry loving and spunky daughter of a rigid Puritan father (John Penird), who falls for Nigel in a big way.
Shakespeare (Scott Saggiomo) shows up in the middle of Act I to strut and preen and later works to gum up Nick’s big idea. A wandering minstrel (Ryan Hillary) provides some running commentary.
Something Rotten! revels in jokes, sight gags and double entendres. The brightest feature, though, is a series of elaborate production numbers that are an example of Broadway at its flashiest.
Kate Fabrizio and Jessica Hyland have staged these numbers with great precision and energy. Even when the show slows a bit in the second act, the dancers are there to give Something Rotten! with a shot of adrenaline. Two numbers, “A Musical” and “Make an Omelette,” are solid show-stoppers.
Director Pat Foti and Musical Director Paula Bacorn have coaxed winning performances from all members of the large cast. The actors are in fine form in both singing and acting. And they are funny from top to bottom, to paraphrase one of the musical numbers in the show.
An eight-member live orchestra provides solid backup to the actors.
Something Rotten! has its share of phallic humor and gay jokes. While most are ribald and rather smutty, the creators do flirt with sophomoric humor in some spots. But these low points get lost amid a cascade of high ones.
EPAC should keep the cast on call and bring Something Rotten! back in January and February when we all need a tonic to fight the winter blahs. Shakespeare has never been funnier.
IF YOU GO: Something Rotten! will be performed at 8 p.m. today and 3 p.m. Sunday (Nov. 13 and 14). Tickets are $22 ($20 for seniors). Visit www.endicottarts.com.