Musical theater nerds, this one’s for you:
“Something Rotten,” currently on the Centennial Hall stage, pays exhausting homage to nearly every musical ever written.
The overly silly play takes us back to Shakespeare’s time. Nick Bottom and his brother Nigel are desperate to stage a hit bigger than any ol’ Will has had. So Nick pays a visit to a soothsayer, who tells him the next big thing in theater is musicals.
“What the hell are musicals?” Nick says in an introduction to a song that details the concept of breaking into song and dance in the middle of a dialogue.
“Stupidest thing that I have ever heard,” Nick sings. “You’re doing a play/ got something to say/ So you sing it? It’s absurd.”
But, hey, nothing else has worked. So they write a musical about the Black Death. It’s a flop.
Eventually they pen a musical called “Omelette” — the soothsayer said that would be Shakespeare’s next big hit (confusing the name with “Hamlet”), so they will jump on it first and make it a musical. A musical with an opening number that borrows a line or two from just about every other musical in existence.
“Something Rotten” is funny, and the cast of this non-union road show oozes energy. They seem to be having fun — and why wouldn’t they? They are skewering everything they learned to revere about theater.
Matthew Michael Janisse is solid as the desperate-for-a-megahit Nick Bottom; Richard Spitaletta shines as his more sensitive and Shakespeare-loving brother, Nigel.
Greg Kalafatas showed his clowning chops in the role of the soothsayer. Matthew Baker’s smarmy Shakespeare was an egotistical superstar who stole other playwrights’ material and took to a stage in a park (of course) to perform rock ’n’ roll versions of his sonnets.
In the first act, the laughs came pretty easily. By the second, it all gets a tad tiresome.
“Something Rotten” is completely sophomoric and at times raunchy — we don’t have a problem with that. After all, we sat through “Book of Mormon” a few times without complaint.
But it got to the point where the one-note “Rotten” just didn’t know when to cut that note off. And that’s disappointing to this musical nerd.