CENTERVILLE — On a random trip to New York City in 2015, I had a free afternoon and scored a half-price ticket to a show with an awful title: Something Rotten! That is all I knew about it. Little did I know as I walked into the St. James Theatre that this show with music and lyrics by Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick, and a book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell would become a true favorite and a humorous delight that I would seek out for years to come.
So, when CenterPoint Legacy Theatre mounted their production, directed by Danny Inkley, and after a tough summer in my personal life, I jumped at the chance to attend. One of the challenges of theatre criticism is to look objectively at a show you are fond of, allow for a new rendition of said show, and understand the limitations of the theatre company that has chosen to bring the show to life. CenterPoint has a great stage and a lot of fantastic resources, but it is not Broadway, nor even a touring Equity house or a regional Equity house, all places I have chortled at Something Rotten!
The premise of this show follows Nick and Nigel Bottom, brothers and playwrights trying to be contemporaries with the amazing Shakespeare in the new era of the ’90s . . . the 1590s.
CenterPoint always does well with technical elements. The design team has created a flawless imitation of Elizabethan England, from the scenic design by Josh Roberts to the costume design by Tammis Boam, to the props created by Sharla Jordan.
But the actors in this show are what really makes the evening fun. Local talent Annie Ferrin shines once again in the role of Bea, wife to Nick Bottom (played by J. R. Moore). Having seen Ferrinn in many productions in my years as a critic in Utah, I have often wondered why she is not on bigger stages and platforms. However, Utah theatre is better for it. The humor that she added to the number “Right Hand Man” was crisp and cutting, and she had me smiling from ear to ear. Her strong belt was glorious to listen to and the transitions in her voice were seamless.
In this show, there is a song entitled “A Musical,” which I have long felt is one of the best songs written for musical theatre. It takes a lot of strong elements to get it right, though. The first is the character of Thomas (played by Scott W. Butler). Butler played Thomas in a fashion unlike I had ever seen before, almost a cross of Doc Brown from Back to the Future and a wise sage. It was a performance thay really worked. The next element is the musicality of the whole ensemble, where music director David K. Martin brought out the strengths of the full cast. And finally — and maybe most importantly for this song — is the choreography by Heather Sessions-Gaillard and tap choreography by Danica Davies. Both elements of choreography are essential for the entertainment, success, and humor of “A Musical.” This number was executed so well by the team at CenterPoint that I timed the applause after the song, and it lasted a full minute and thirty seconds. All that applause was well deserved. I cannot even put into words the joy of this song, but any lover of musical theatre will be on cloud nine when watching this song.
In this production, there are some alterations to the script. My assumption is this is the same alterations that happen if the production is done in a high school, and it shows that CenterPoint knows their audience. Where normally I would give Something Rotten! a solid PG-13 rating, this production was comfortably PG. Because of the community theatre nature of this audience, I find this a good way to introduce this show, and (maybe even Shakespeare) to a younger audience while being aware of some sensitivities.
Speaking of Shakespeare, Isaac Carrillo embodying this role was simply impressive to watch. He exuded flair as he played Shakespeare as a slightly burned out rockstar. The contrast with the sincerity of Zach Watts as Nigel Bottom was wonderful pairing that worked in ways that I have not seen before. It was a nice to discover some nuance in a part of the show that I thought I knew well. Watts as Nigel was one of my favorites in this production, and this was because of the unique way in which he embodied the character. This, coupled with Grace Liljenquist as a naïve yet fangirl Portia, brought the character work in Something Rotten! to become truly enjoyable.
The best compliment I can I can give this production of Something Rotten! is that I truly needed to laugh. And Something Rotten! provided those deep, soulful laughs that helped me forget my troubles and remember the joy of fun theatre. I am certain that my laughter was louder than anyone else’s in the audience. Sure, I still hope that CenterPoint finds a way to add live musicians to some of their productions, and I missed some of the more risqué jokes of the script (though I respect why this version was better for CenterPoint’s audience). Inkley, the cast, and his technical designers have created a refreshing show that was personally healing for me, because for the first time in weeks, I truly, deeply laughed.