If lines like “Alas poor yolk, I knew him well,” or “What is a fiddler and why is he on the roof?” make you laugh, then “Something Rotten!” is the musical for you.
Now running at the Wharton Center, this bawdy spoof of Shakespeare and musicals packs more puns than some shows can or should handle.
Set in the Disney Epcot version of London in 1590, “Something Rotten!” makes clear from the beginning that this show is neither historical nor accurate. The chorus sings about all of their houses being Tudors with heaps of present day references, and the playwright William Shakespeare is the equivalent of a rock star.
Like your favorite rock stars, Shakespeare has his haters. Brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom (Rob McClure and Josh Grisetti, respectively) are two competing playwrights who strive to make it big if only that lousy Shakespeare didn’t steal all of their best ideas first.
Desperate and down on his luck, Nick visits a soothsayer named Thomas Nostradamus (seriously), played by the charming Blake Hammond, who tells Nick the new theatrical innovation is the musical. Rather than produce his brother’s better, original play, Nick sets off to create and produce “Omelette: The Musical,” where chorus dancers dressed as eggs tap dance to Broadway glitz.
In the meantime, Nigel falls in love with a Puritan girl, Portia (Autumn Hurlbert) and Shakespeare himself (Adam Pascal), struggles to find his next new idea.
Written by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell with music and lyrics by Wayne Kirkpatrik and Karey Kirkpatrick, “Something Rotten!” is definitely derived from the same irreverent, musical spoofing musicals as “The Producers,” “Book of Mormon” and “Spamalot.”
The best numbers are the glitzy, showstoppers like “A Musical” in Act I and the gospel inspired “We See the Light” in Act II. Not only are the songs more memorable than others, they also blend tight choreography by Casey Nicholaw into breathless spectacles.
The best supporting roles include Maggie Lakis as Nick’s plucky wife, Bea, and Scott Cote as the tyrannical Puritan Brother Jeremiah. Both Lakis and Cote make the most of their characters by finding subtle beats in otherwise broadly written characters. Cote is especially fun delivering unwitting double entendres in a pompous voice and a straight face.
Scott Pask’s scenic designs and Gregg Barnes’ costume designs are flattering and smooth. Rustic homes fly out of the way to reveal a shimmering peacock backdrop while boots turn into tap boots in a flash. With the number of costume changes, it’s easy to forget that the cast is smaller than it looks.
What “Something Rotten!” lacks in highbrow jokes, it more than makes up for in volume. Two of the closing numbers, the titular “Something Rotten!” and “Make and Omelette,” reference more musicals and Shakespeare quotes than one can reasonably track.
This show itself is definitely not Shakespeare, but it is fun and may be the strangest musical tribute ever written.
“Something Rotten!” 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March
14-Thursday, March 15; 8 p.m. Friday, March 16; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, March 17; 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, March 18, Tickets start at $43/$29 students Wharton Center 750 E. Shaw Lane, East Lansing (517) 432-2000, whartoncenter.com