Something may have been rotten in the state of Denmark back when The Bard ruled London, but there’s nothing at all rotten going on at the Ahmanson Theatre as Center Theatre Group welcomes the Broadway National Tour of 2015 Best Musical Tony nominee Something Rotten, a musical theater buff’s dream come true and just as much fun for those who couldn’t put a last name to Chita, Patti, or Bernadette if their lives depended on it.

The year is 1595 and William Shakespeare (Adam Pascal) reigns almost as supreme as her majesty Queen Elizabeth while aspiring playwright brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom (Rob McClure and Josh Grisetti) long for even a smidgen of Will’s success.

No wonder then that when older bro Nick happens upon Nostradamus (Blake Hammond) one dark and gloomy night (not the Nostradamus but his somewhat less psychically gifted nephew) and asks to know what The Next Theatrical Big Thing will be, he’s more than willing to take the soothsayer’s advice, no matter how outlandish it might seem.

And what you may ask does Nostradamus predict will soon be the rage? Here’s a hint. It’s got “song and dance, and sweet romance, and happy endings happening by happenstance, bright lights, stage fights, and a dazzling chorus.”

That’s right, it’s a musical, and before long Nick is taking Nostradamus’s advice and writing “Omelette” (the would-be oracle got everything right but the first letter) much to the consternation of younger brother Nigel, who’d put art over commerce any day.

Meanwhile, Nick’s feminist wife Bea (Maggie Lakis) has gone out in men’s attire to find a job (women being forbidden by law from doing men’s work) and Nigel has fallen head over heels for Portia (Autumn Hulbert), daughter of puritan Brother Jeremiah (Scott Cote), who’d rather see his offspring burn in hell than have her marry a heathen, a place she’s headed in any case if she and Nigel tie the knot.

Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell’s Tony-nominated book is filled with delightfully deliberate anachronisms (at one point Bard concert fans sway with lit wicker candles held high the way today’s would wave their cell phone flashlights) and lyricists Wayne Kirkpatrick and younger brother Karey have just as much fun rhyming “sciences” and “appliances” (and “pewter” and “Tudor”) while referencing just about every Broadway show that’s ever stopped at the Ahmanson.

And just wait till Casey Nicholaw’s Tony-nominated choreography gets Something Rotten’s superstar ensemble paying tribute to Bennett, Fosse, Robbins, and more in “A Musical!”, an Act One showstopper that may well break the Ahmanson record for longest sustained applause and cheers, with Act Two’s “Make And Omelette” coming pretty darned close.

As for the tunes the Tony-nominated brothers Kirkpatrick have written, the Original Cast Recording issues a “warning” that they are “all show tunes,” which means you can expect to be humming along to hooks that would do Show Tune King Jerry Herman proud.

Nicholaw’s ebullient Tony-nominated direction brings out the best in a cast filled with one Broadway vet after another, from McClure’s quietly brilliant star turn as Nick to Grisetti’s goofy, lanky charm as Nigel to Pascal’s legit rock star charisma and sex appeal as The Bard, with Lakis’s plucky Bea and Hurlbert’s perky Portia giving the men a run for their money every step of the way.

Hammond steals every scene he’s in as Nostradamus 2.0 and the same can be said for Cote’s closet flamer of a Brother Jeremiah, Jeff Brooks’s ever-kvetching moneylender Shylock, and Nick Rashad Burroughs’s channeling of Ben Vareen as our singing Narrator.

There’s no harder-working or more talented triple-threat ensemble now touring the U.S. than Something Rotten’s Lucy Anders, Kyle Nicholas Anderson (Tom Snout, Chef Trio), Daniel Beeman (Yorick, Shakespeare’s Valet, Will Power Backup Boy), assistant dance captain Mandie Black, Burroughs (Narrator, Chef Trio), Pierce Cassedy (a treat as requisite Shakespearean actor-in-drag Robin), Drew Franklin (Will Power Backup Boy), Ralph Meitzler, Patrick John Moran (Francis Flute, Master Of The Justice), Joel Newsome (Lord Clapham, Eyepatch Man), Con O’Shea-Creal (Will Power Backup Boy, Will Power Backup Boy), Kaylin Seckel, Sarah Quinn Taylor, Tonya Thompson, Emily Trumble, vocalizing to L.A.’s very own Brian P. Kennedy’s expert musical direction, the latter doing double-duty conducting Something Rotten’s Broadway-caliber orchestra performing Larry Hochman’s Tony-nominated orchestrations with expert sound design by Peter Hylenski.

As befits any Grade-A Broadway National Tour, Something Rotten looks Something Sensational thanks to scenic designer Scott Pask, costume designer Gregg Barnes, lighting designer Jeff Croiter, hair designer Josh Marquette, and makeup designer Milagros Medina-Cerdeira. (See production stills for visual proof.)

Kate Bailey, dance captain Brandon Bieber, Ian Campayno, and Cameron Hobbs are swings. Steve Bebout is associate director, Eric Giancola is associate choreographer, and Jeff Norman is production stage manager.

Clever, tuneful, hilarious, charming, and utterly irresistible, Something Rotten is as fresh as musical theater gets and as fabulous as anything you’ll see between now and New Year’s Eve.

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Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N Grand Ave, Los Angeles.

–Steven Stanley
November 21, 2017
Photos: Jeremy Daniel

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