To say you hate Shakespeare is basically an act of sacrilege in the theatre world. Yet that is exactly what struggling Renaissance artist Nick Bottom loudly declares about his rival, whose latest play, "Romeo and Juliet," is the talk of the town in Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick's musical comedy "Something Rotten!"—directed by Casey Nicholaw.
Nick Bottom and his brother Nigel are desperate to write a hit. With mounting financial pressures and a desire to have a bigger show than Shakespeare weighing him down, Nick turns to Nostradamus—a soothsayer—to ask him what audiences will want to see. The answer shocks him: Musicals. In the future, there will be productions where actors just burst into song and dance, and people love them.
Cue the grand, self-referential musical number. It's glorious. There's a kickline and everything.
When his first attempt to create one of these spectacles fails, Nick returns to Nostradamus. Desperate to thwart Shakespeare, Nick asks the mystic to tell him what the Bard's greatest hit will be.
A little misinterpretation goes a long way, and the results are delightfully absurd.
Meanwhile, Nigel has fallen in love… with a Puritan! After colliding with the gorgeous Portia, Nigel and the blonde beauty bond over his beautiful poetry. However, the two lovers realize their star-crossed status due to the fact that her father, Brother Jeremiah is a staunch Puritan who believes that the theatre is a dirty haven for sin. They're a regular Romeo and Juliet.
This hilarious production is kept from falling off the edge into total absurdity by a strong cast.
Rob McClure shines as Nick Bottom. His energy and charisma keeps the audience cheering for him to succeed throughout the whole production. Josh Grisetti is absolutely endearing as the younger, soft-spoken Nigel. Maggie Lakis plays the fierce and feminist Bea, wife of Nick. She's an unconditional lover with a bite. Autumn Hurlbert plays the girlish and giggling Portia. Although a bit shrill when she speaks, her voice soars when singing. Scott Cote plays the harsh, yet vaguely effeminate Brother Jeremiah, and Blake Hammond brings down the house as Nostradamus during the spectacular "A Musical."
And of course, there's Adam Pascal playing the "Sultan of Sonnets" himself. Known for originating the role of the edgy Roger in "Rent," Pascal is a sexy and swaggering Shakespeare—a true rock star.
The technical aspects of this production are spot on as well, with colorful costumes by Gregg Barnes, detailed sets by Scott Pask (my personal favorite is the backdrop for Soothsayer Alley), and seamless lighting and sound design by Jeff Croiter and Peter Hylenski. The opening number of the show—sung with gusto by Nick Rashad Burroughs—was a little hard to hear over Brian P. Kennedy's orchestra pit, but fortunately that was only an issue at the beginning of the show.
"Something Rotten!" will be playing at the Ahmanson Theatre until December 31st. Tickets are available by calling (213) 972-4400, online at www.CenterTheatreGroup.org or by visiting the Center Theatre Group Box Office located at the Ahmanson Theatre. Tickets range from $30 – $140 (ticket prices are subject to change).