Beck Center’s ‘Something Rotten’ is Something Special
It’s the 90s...1590s that is and change is in the air. There is science (flush toilets), social upheaval (women are beginning to realize their place in society), better food (bread) and entertainment (Shakespeare). Two brothers, Nick and Nigel Bottom are playwrights in London desperate to write a hit play based on Richard II. Their patron, Lord Clapham informs them that “The Bard” (who was fired by the brothers and set out on his own) is doing Richard II after his success with Richard III. Clapham gives the brothers an ultimatum, “Come up with something new by morning or he is withdrawing his support for the company.”
After ranting about his hatred of everything Shakespeare, Nick returns home with Nigel as his wife is finishing up dinner (boiled cabbage that she had rescued after being tossed at the pillory victims). Bea Bottom announces that she is going to seek employment disguised as a man. Nick has no choice but to let her try her luck.
Out of desperation, Nick takes the money box and seeks the help of the soothsayer Nostradamus but instead ends up with his nephew, Thomas Nostradamus. Going into a trance Thomas predicts the next “Big Thing In Theatre” will be “Musicals!” with singing, dancing AND acting. With future financial encouragement Thomas reveals that Shakespeare’s greatest work will be called “Omelet” about a man eating danish and ham and grieving about his dead father. Nick has Nigel set to work.
“Something Rotten” is written by John O’Farrell and Karey Kirkpatrick with music and lyrics by Karey Kirkpatrick and Wayne Kirkpatrick. The production is currently on stage in the Senney Theatre at the Beck Center for the Arts. The show is Directed by Scott Spence with Musical Direction by Larry Goodpaster and Choreography by Martin Céspedes.
So how does the Beck Center version stack up? While it falls slightly short of the touring Broadway production that was at Playhouse Square pre-Covid in 2017 it is really not bad at all. In order for this show to be successful it must have certain elements that blend together. There must be a high energy level throughout the show. Costuming must be spot on down to the smallest detail. The actors need to be able to sing and dance (in particular tap dance). Lighting has to be spot on and sound needs to be a perfect blend of instruments and voice. Lastly, being that it is a musical comedy the timing has to be exact.
For the most part, Beck Center delivers on nearly every qualification. The only complaint would be the sound level. It is uneven at best with times when the balance is perfect and other times the orchestra overwhelms the singers even during the ensemble pieces. Be that as it may, the show is truly ribald and funny. Audience members will take great delight in discovering the many references to past Broadway hits that are slyly sprinkled throughout the show as well as bits of Bard-isms. That is really what makes this show such a delight to see.
The casting is superb. Eric Fancher as Nick Bottom and Ian Stewart as Nigel Bottom work well together. Theresa Kloos as Bea Bottom steals the show everything she goes on stage. The same is true for the other female lead and Nigel’s love interest, Eileen Brady as Portia with her clear as a bell singing voice. Matthew Wright as Thomas Nostradamus plays it tall and wide and to great effect. Scott Sumerak does a rock star Shakespeare throwing off one liners right and left. Brian Altman as the Puritan Brother Jeremiah scores. Tim Tavcar as Shylock is a bundle of comic energy. Starting off the show is Trey Milcowitz as the Minstrel who is in fine voice for the part. John Polk plays a very convincing Lord Clapham.
The male ensemble is made up of Trey Milcowitz, Nicholas Bradley, Trevor Gill-Snow, Jared Guerrasio, Mack Hubbard, Connor McFalls, Zach Monczewski, Shane Strohmenger, Josh Trattner and Jonah Warhaft.
The female ensemble is made up of Hailey Elberg, Stella Fisher, Imani Jackson, Erin Ripley, Bridget Mahoney, Eliana Taub, Lilly Warner and Calista Zajac. The singing and tap dancing from the ensemble is absolutely superb. It is reason enough to buy a ticket.
The orchestra is made up of Brian Bird and Larry Goodpaster(Keyboards), Bill Hart (Drums), Karen Langenwalter, Keith Turner, Steve Zombory (Reeds), Juan Ingram (Trumpet), Eric Richmond (Trombone), Jesse Hodgson (Guitar), Shawn Brandt and Jason Stebelton (Bass).
If you are weary of seeing the latest “Broadway Show Based On A Movie”, “Something Rotten” stands alone in it’s originality. It is truly laugh out loud funny. See how many Bard and Broadway references you can pick up out the rapid fire delivery. Be preared to be totally entertained.
“Something Rotten” will be on stage in the Senney Theatre at the Beck Center for the Arts located at 17801 Detroit Avenue Lakewood, Ohio through August 7, 2022. For information and tickets go to https://www.beckcenter.org/shows/somethingrotten or call (216) 521-2540 x10.