THE FUNNY ENTERTAINING ‘SOMETHING ROTTEN” IS A LAUGH RIOT, SHAKESPEARE WILL NEVER BE THE SAME
Two brothers attempt to write the world’s 1st musical
in a mash-up of Shakespeare and 21st century Broadway Jazz Hands
Review by Vince Mediaa
The Bard takes center stage this winter at Tri-Valley Reps Bankhead Theatre. The polished hit SOMETHING ROTTEN! Musical is bringing huge smiles to East Bay Area audiences. Now on stage only through January 29th as part Tri-Valley Reps comeback 39th season. The hit creative team of “ROTTEN” includes a book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell with music from Kirkpatrick and his Nashville songwriter brother, Wayne. Tri-Valley Rep producer Katherleen Breedveld has assembled a superb cast who give each lead the perfect shtick.
The songs are full throttle, from the explosive opener “Welcome to the Renaissance” featuring the powerhouse Nico Jaochico as the Minstrel. He opens the musical along with the entire cast set in 1590s England. The musical is full of theatre puns and glam with many references to modern day inside jokes about successful musicals. The two Bottom Brothers played by the marvelous Matt Skinner as Nick, and his brother Nigel played by Austin Andrade both sing “God, I Hate Shakespeare”. The two brothers set up the story to write the first musical.
SOMETHING ROTTEN tells the story of two brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom, playwrights, who want to produce hit plays that rival Shakespeare's. The brothers open the first act setting the mood that the Bard is our Villain. In order to produce a sure hit, Nick visits a fortune teller played by the eccentric Glen Riggs who is hilarious as the misguided Thomas Nostradamus, a psychic who shares his guess for Shakes next big play will be “Omelette” which misinterprets Hamlet.
The sharp Tommy Lassiter is Shakespear and he brings that rock star glamor to the Bard. Lassiter selflessly lampoons Shakespeare with some rich ego swagg. Dressed in a silverlined outrageous neck collar and a healthy cod piece Lassiter takes the stage as the rockstar playwright with the song “Will Power” that features him pointing out his greatest lines musically “Shall I compare thee…” to which the crowd finishes “to a summer’s day.” Was Shakespeare ever this much of a diva? I might guess he was and for this production with it's over-the-top “shtick” is the star of this show.
Local favorite Riggs is the perfect vast fortune teller Nostradamus who stops the show with the jazz hands production number “A Musical” a jukebox time bomb that showcases 15 Broadway musicals from Chorus Line to The Music Man. The strong dance ensemble choreographed by the superb Christina Lazo and Megan Hornbacker bring out the classic tap moves for this show stopping number.
The smashing Magan Bartlett as Nick's wife Bea steals the stage in all her disguises and her wonderful song’ “Right Hand Man” she sings with the two brothers. It's a blast for people who are familiar with musicals and Shakespeare, but no need to be a Bard historian, the show is full of crazy jabs and non-stop laughs.
The gifted Tori Speed as Portia, Nigels crush sings “I Love The Way” with the shy Austin Andrade. Speed’s perfect voice brings the best warmth to her new love with a Bottom brother. The puritans headed by Brother Jeremiah played by the terrific Jordan Smith keeps the sexual innuendos non stop including pointing out the brothers are both bottoms. Smith sings “We See The Light” with Speed and the cast and it is hilarious. The hits are one after another as the story flies by including “Bottom’s Gonna Be On Top” by the entire cast.
Matt Skinner holds the story together as the classic lead Nick who is a romantic seeking his dream. He is most memorable in “I Hate Shakespeare”: reprise and the second act closer “To Thine Own Self”. Music Director Jed da Roza brings a Broadway charm to many of the more than 21 songs. Director Brian Olkowski kept the large cast moving and the musical references ideal. The strength of the show is the vibrant pace and non-stop comedy in the two and a half hour romp with a stellar cast.
The supporting cast includes the accomplished Bob Stratton as Lord Clapham, the first ever producer Shylock played by the clever Elmer Strasser. The troupe also includes Osvaido Mora, Andrew Kracht, Chris Poston, Kurt Hornbacker, and Terri McDowell. The musical the brothers reveal their new musical with the production number “Make An Omelette” that includes Amanda Ross, Amber Gee, Andrew Kracht, Caeli Baker, Kathleen Hornbacker, Kurt Hornbacker, Leah Gum, Lisa Radzanowski, Makena Mueller, Osvaldo Mora, Rachelle King, Shelly McDowell, Terri McDowell and Tom Farris.
The choreography is glam and so fun to watch. The real Bards behind this glitter are costume coordinators Lisa Dantz, Pat Kron Pope, and Kathleen Breedveld. The iconic 1590’s white tights and colorful robes and leather boots, overstuffed codpieces and ruffled collars. Props include crowns, quill pens, Boa feathers and plenty of mugs and wine created by a team of TVR pros headed by Joan Brown. The show biz lighting by Erica Engel and a rock star set for the Bard designed by Thomas Curtin. Sound design by Bob Elliott and stage manager Olkowski who wore many hats for this giddy production.
Other song standouts include "We See The Light" as the Puritans take on a gospel tune, and "Make An Omelet," which is goofy good fun. The cast is full of talented dancers who can handle many genres, including some mean tap dancing. “The Black Death” and “Will Power” are clever especially dealing with the “Plague” and include just about every Shakes joke ever written.
Shakespeare's hilarious strength in “Hard to Be the Bard.” opens the second act and gags bounce off the Bankhead walls as the company’s energy echoes puns throughout the theater. Shakespeare's ego driven talent leads the company in the banner song “SOMETHING ROTTEN!” He just wants to have a good time. You will too, at times the Bard schtick can get tired, it gets overused. The second act is pure fun as Shakes takes center stage with the company who are sizzling. “We See The Light” with Portia (Speed) and Nigel, hits the comic timing with “Its Eggs”. I think Shakespeare would love this musical and I feel that anyone who visits the 15th century at Tri-Valley Rep at the Bankhead Center for Performing Arts will have a “Welcome to the Renaissance” and “Music be the food of love, play on!” SOMETHING ROTTEN! It's a great time. Bring your own white gloves for “Jazz Hands”.
Tri - Valley Repertory Presents
By John O’Farrell, Karey Kirkpatrick and Wayne Kirkpatrick
Tri-Valley Rep Producer: Kathleen Breedveld
Director Brian Olkowski
Music Director: Jed da Roza
Choreographers Christina Lazo
and Meghan Hornbacker
Only Through January 29th 2023
THE BANKHEAD CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
2400 First Street, Livermore, CA 95113
Running Time 2 hours 30 minutes one intermission
PHOTO CREDIT: BOB BRONZAN and Vince Mediaa
OPENING NIGHT CURTAIN CALL
Shakespeare: Tommy Lassiter, Nick Bottom: Matt Skinner, Nigel Bottom: Austin Andrade, Bea: Megan Bartlett, Portia: Tori Speed, Nostradamus: Glen Riggs, Brother Jeremiah: Jordan SmithLord Clapham: Bob Stratton, Minstrel: Nico Jaochico, Shylock: Elmer Strasser
Peter Quince: Osvaldo Mora (u/s Nigel). Robin: Andrew Kracht (u/s Brother Jeremiah, Minstrel, Nostradamus)\,Tom Snout: Chris Poston, Snug: Kurt Hornbacker, Terri McDowell, Tom Farris
Amanda Ross, Amber Gee, Andrew Kracht, Caeli Baker, Chris Poston, Kathleen Hornbacker (u/s Portia), Kurt Hornbacker, Leah Gum. Lisa Radzanowski, Makena Mueller (u/s Bea), Meghan Hornbacker, Osvaldo Mora, Rachelle King, Shelly McDowell, Terri McDowell, and Tom Farris