Lyric Arts in Anoka reminds us once again that they are the little theater that can. I first saw Something Rotten! about four years ago when the national tour came to the Orpheum. I had a blast with the show then and I think I had just as much fun with it last night. What Lyric Arts production loses in spectacle it more then makes up for with the immediacy of it’s perfectly sized theatre. There really isn’t a bad seat in the Main Street Stage, but for me, my heart is always in the front row. Fun, witty, and entertaining from top to Bottom (there’s a double meaning in that) Lyric Arts finishes it’s 2021 -22 season on a high note. Filled with anachronisms, like a sunglasses wearing William Shakespeare, and jokes that come from every imaginable direction, visual, dialogue, and clever song lyrics. It’s a musical comedy that has something for everyone, but a little extra for those who know their Shakespeare and musical theatre. This is a show that is as much a parody of musicals as it is an entertaining example of the form. For fans of musical theatre it is chock full of Easter eggs, with nods to everything from Les Miserables to Rent, as well as regular eggs, including four tap dancing eggs.
Written by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell with music and lyrics by Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick. The story follows the Bottom brothers Nick and Nigel who are playwrights during the Renaissance period and contemporaries of William Shakespeare. Shakespeare is portrayed as something akin to a rockstar by today’s standards. Nigel is a huge fan of Shakespeare but his older brother Nick hates him, partially out of jealousy. When their new play is cancelled, due to a rumor that Shakespeare is writing a play with the same title, the brothers have one night to come up with a new idea. In a panic, Nick takes the money he and his wife Bea had been saving and goes to a soothsayer named Nostradamus. Nostradamus looks into the future to see what the next big thing in theater is going to be, what he sees are musicals! Once sold on this idea, the brothers are still stuck for an idea on which to base their musical. So Nick asks Nostradamus to look again into the future and see what Shakespeare’s greatest work will be, the response is Omlet! Filled with some really fun songs, favorites include “God, I Hate Shakespeare”, “A Musical” and To Thine Own Self Be True” just to name a few.
The cast is headed by Kyler Chase and Grant Hooyer as Nick and Nigel Bottom. Chase brought me full circle to my first visit to Lyric Arts and his portrayal of Mark in Rent. Here again, he wowed me not only with his singing but his comic timing as well. Hooyer is perfectly cast as Nigel, he captures the innocence of a sheltered younger brother but also plays the naive young man under the spell of first love. He is also a nice singer and his facial expressions play the humor just right. Justin Betancourt steals the show every time he appears as Nostradamus. His performance of “A Musical” is hilarious and worth the price of admission alone. Carl Swanson plays William Shakespeare with all the pomp and arrogance of someone who is being called the greatest writer in the English language and believes it. It’s a star making performance of an actor who’s playing a star. Special notice also needs to go to Becca Hart as Bea (Nick’s wife), Courtney Vonvett, as Portia (Nigels love interest), and Kiko Laureano (the Minstrel).
Something Rotten! is directed by Scott Ford with his usual sure hand with Anna Murphy handling the musical direction. The set design by Peter Lerohl makes perfect use of the space. What looks like a series of painted flats of buildings turns out to be quite inventive in the way that various pieces unfold to create different interiors, the central set piece functions as the outside of a building but then rotates to serve as the inside of the theater for the plays rehearsals. The scenic artist Victoria Clawson has given the buildings the look of a picture storybook, which feels perfectly in step with the silliness that ensues. I also wanted to make sure I mentioned the costume designer Caitlin Quinn whose work here is marvelous. Also Hannah Weinberg-Goerger whose choreography was a joy to behold. A little tap goes a long way sometimes but a little tap done well, as it is here, can be an impressive display of timing and precision.
For more information and to purchase tickets for Something Rotten! go to https://www.lyricarts.org/. The show runs through August 14th, it’s a real crowd pleaser of a show, a lot of fun and laughs, sometimes that’s just what we need.
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