Our Tomatometer Considers 'Rotten' Fresh
Something Rotten! is the next installment of Diamond Head Theatre’s 2018-2019 season. A musical that delights and stuns on all fronts, its book is by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell, with music and lyrics by Wayne Kirk Patrick and Karey Kirkpatrick. A certified Broadway success, director John Rampage details in his note in the playbill that the play was one that he watched many times on one of his visits to New York- a total of five times. Captivated by the humor, choreography, and how he always left the theatre in a great mood humming the tunes, he has helmed Diamond Head’s production of it, and his passion for the production shines as the audience is treated to one hell of a musical experience.
The play follows opens with the number “Welcome to the Renaissance,” which quickly establishes the kind of show this will be. Led by Will Thomson’s fun-to-follow Minstrel, the audience is introduced to England in the throes of the Renaissance, rife with a sense of rhythm and an ample amount of dance. Indeed, Something Rotten! at it’s core is an homage to many twentieth and twenty-first century musicals. Reveling in sly jabs at these contemporary musicals, it becomes a fun game to see what gets referenced where. The only bigger game of the production is how many Shakespearean references you can find- and the show delivers them by the truckload. The audience follows Nick (Kevin Pease) and Nigel (Ryan Dressel) Bottom, two brothers that run a theatre company that’s about to fold. When their livelihood is threatened by the works of Shakespeare (Aleks Pevec), the most popular writer in town, the brothers find they need to produce a big hit or else their theatre company goes under. Nigel, the smaller and meeker looking Bottom, has a penchant for writing, and it’s his contributions that are arguably the strongest pieces of the brothers Bottom’s plays. His writing attracts the affections of Portia (Kyla Blase), a Puritan daughter of Brother Jeremiah (Don Farmer). The two explore their forbidden love (Brother Jeremiah obviously doesn’t want his daughter cohorting with a crude, penniless writer), and Nigel finds the spark to write their next big show. Meanwhile, Nick’s wife Bea (Megan Ellis) begins hunting for jobs a woman can do; left with little to no options in Renaissance England, she disguises herself as a man and starts doing odd jobs around town. This upsets Nick, who only wants to provide for his family and not have his wife do all of this physical labor. Thus, he seeks out a soothsayer named Nostradamus (Garret Hols), looking for what the next big thing will be for theatre, and then the next big idea from Shakespeare… so he can steal it and do it first. Thus, Nick and Nigel both come together with ideas, and the brothers reconcile their differences- or do they?
From start to finish, the production is a crowd pleaser, and this starts with the cast, who as a unit sound and look great. Pease and Dressel as the brothers Bottom carry the show with every ounce of heart that they have to offer. While this is a musical comedy, the two alongside Blase and Ellis, find the truth and humanity in the play that only raises the art at work here. Pease’s Nick has many numbers that demand energy and charm, and he delivers. The one that rises to meet him is Shakespeare, with Pevec effortlessly playing a rockstar version of The Bard, complete with oozing charisma and hips that do not quit. Other notable standouts include Hols’ fun and memorable Nostradamus, Mathias Maas’ hilarious double duty as Lord Claphorn and the Master of Justice, and Farmer’s Brother Jeremiah, who is delightfully repressed in his performance as one of the leaders of the Puritan faith.
Again, the cast look and sound fantastic, and of course it takes a village to make that happen. Ike Webster’s musical direction was spot on as the cast sounded pitch perfect alongside the accompanying orchestra. Rampage’s choreography was a success, with dazzling numbers and many moving pieces. Choreographing the tap numbers alongside him was Erin McFadden, making each one a bit more popping than the last. Karen G. Wolfe’s costume design alongside the hair/make-up design by Linda Lockwood was stellar! Creating so many dynamic looks for the characters must have been no easy feat, and the attention to detail on their costumes is a treat. The wigs were remarkable, rendering some actors un-recognizable in the best way possible. Willie Sabel’s set was also very detailed and gorgeous to look at, utilizing clever design to properly convey the scope of a winding and twisting English town. Stephen Clear’s lighting design goes hand in hand with the set to make for some powerful dramatic moments and really helps sell the show power of Shakespeare. Rounding out the team, Kerri Yoneda’s sound design also helped to bring this sprawling town to life, and John Cummings III’s props were a joy to see get used- or torn apart! Ultimately, the look and sound of the production was top notch, and all that were involved should be proud of the work at play here.
Come to this musical ready to laugh. If you love, or are at least Wikipedia-familiar with musical theatre, theatre, or Shakespeare, you’ll have a double fun time as the play playfully ribs all three and more. Powerhouse performances are in no short supply at Diamond Head Theatre’s Something Rotten!, which runs through April 14. For tickets, click here.