SOMETHING ROTTEN!

There’s no more entertaining big-stage musical in town than Musical Theatre West’s regional premiere of 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 (Grasan Kingsberry) reigns almost as supreme as her majesty Queen Elizabeth while aspiring playwright brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom (Eric Petersen and Beau Brians) long for even a smidgen of Will’s success.

No wonder then that when older bro Nick happens upon Nostradamus (Davis Gaines) 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 syllable) much to the consternation of younger brother Nigel, who’d put art over commerce any day.

Meanwhile, Nick’s feminist wife Bea (Chelle Denton) has gone out in male attire to find a job (women being forbidden by law from doing men’s work) and Nigel has fallen head over heels for Portia (Madison Claire Parks), daughter of puritan Brother Jeremiah (Dedrick Bonner), 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 and lyricists Wayne Kirkpatrick and younger brother Karey have just as much fun referencing just about every Broadway show that Musical Theatre West has ever staged.

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.

 Even if you’ve already caught Something Rotten!’s 2015 Broadway debut or its 2017 National Tour at either L.A.’s Ahmanson or the OC’s Segerstrom Center, you’ll want to see it in Long Beach where much is brand spanking new for its regional debut, beginning with Josh Grisetti’s fresh directorial take on a show he knows quite well. (He won a Scenie for playing Nigel on tour.)

Choreographer Eric Sciotto too creates his own show-stopping footwork that pays tribute to Bennett, Fosse, Robbins and more, most especially in in “A Musical!”, a musical theater reference-packed showstopper that may well break the MTW record for longest sustained applause and cheers, with “Make An Omelette” coming in a close second.

Petersen’s Nick Bottom commands the stage with abundant gusto opposite rising star Brian’s supremely engaging Nigel, and Denton’s spunky Bea and Parks’ radiant Portia give the brothers plenty of reason to fall and remain madly in love.

A fabulous Kingsberry reimagines William Shakespere as the sizzling love child of Teddy Pendergrass and Prince, Bonner is a big-baritone, flamingly fanatical hoot as Brother Jeremiah, and MTW favorite Gaines has never been more scene-stealingly hilarious. (Think the Phantom on speed.)

Last but not least, Rusinek does his own scene-stealing a grant total of nine roles, among them a melodious minstrel, a hoity-toity Lord Clapham, and a Shylock who like Rodney Dangerfield finds himself in dire need of R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

As for Leo Ayala, Antwone Barnes (Peter Quince), Bernadette Bentley, Quintan Craig, Mia Davidson, Justin Goei (Snug), Jennifer Knox, Drew Lake, Valerie Larsen, Antoine T. Lee (Yorick), Mackenzie Perpich, Tanner Rampton, Erik Scott Romney (Tom Snout), Beth Roy, Erick Stretch (a drag-o-licious Robin), and Landon Zwick (Francis Flute), rarely has an MTW ensemble worked harder, sung and danced more splendifeously, or done it all in more layers of clothing without breaking a sweat, with the masterful Dennis Castellano musical directing them every note of the way while conducting a Broadway-caliber pit orchestra.

Not only does Musical Theatre West’s Something Rotten! feature fresh new direction and choreography, it’s that rarity among MTW shows, one that showcases an all-new production design, with scenic/lighting designer Paul Black, costume designer Robin L. McGee, sound designer Terry Dycus, properties designer Dylan Powell, and wig designer Michon Gruber-Gonzales giving the Broadway/Touring originals some pretty stunning, clever, colorful competition.

Bree Sherry is stage manager and Shay Garber is assistant stage manager. Matt Terzigni is production manager. Kevin Clowes is technical director. Bren Thor is company manager.

It takes cojones to call a show Something Rotten! (Imagine what critics could come up with if it lived up to its title.) Fortunately, there’s nothing at all rotten in the city of Long Beach this month. Something Rotten! is Something Sensational!

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Musical Theatre West, Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach.
www.musical.org

–Steven Stanley
October 19, 2019
Photos: Caught In The Moment Photography

 

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