Nick Bottom is determined to write a hit play and best his hated rival, William Shakespeare. Saddled with debt and with a child on the way, Bottom consults a soothsayer to dip into the future and decides to create the world’s first musical and steal Shakespeare’s greatest idea to create his magnum opus, Omlette. This is Something Rotten! and it is currently playing at Ralston Community Theatre.
Let me get this out of the way first: not only is this the new best musical I’ve seen mounted on an Omaha stage, it’s now also one of my personal top five shows. If you love musicals, you’re going to love this show. If you HATE musicals, you will still love this show because it points out that genre’s inherent absurdities and plays them up to the fullest especially with the musical in the musical.
Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell came up with something truly unique with this show. It’s historical, anachronistic, parodic, and even brings in some literary theory concerning the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. Throw in a score by Wayne & Karey Kirkpatrick that not only lifts elements from all types of musicals, but includes a showstopping number that includes a mash-up of some of the biggest musicals ever written and you’ve got the elements for a heckuva good time.
Todd Uhrmacher gets this show and his sparkling direction reflects that. This show goes in a lot of different directions and Uhrmacher knows when to be serious and when to be silly. His staging is top notch. The pace is lightning quick. The characterizations are sublime and the cue pickups were right on the button.
The ensemble did a very good job of breathing life into this world and there were some incredible standouts in the supporting cast. Chloe Rosman brings the comedy stylings of Kate Micucci along with an angelic soprano in her rendition of Portia. Jenna McKain is the rock of her family as Bea Bottom and can really belt out a tune, burning brightly with “Right Hand Man”. But I specifically want to shine a spotlight on Jon Flower who gave his best performance to date with his take on Nostradamus. Flower was not only hysterical, but I think the operatic world lost a potential star with that magnificent tenor and he just soars in “A Musical”.
David Ebke is pitch perfect as William Shakespeare. Ebke brings a Johnny Depp/rock star vibe to the role and is arrogant, oozes sex appeal, and wallows in the excesses of celebrity. Ebke’s Shakespeare admits the work it takes to get famous isn’t as fun as the being famous part and it’s implied he uses a few shortcuts to retain that fame and fortune. Ebke also possesses a dynamic tenor and made the ladies swoon with “Will Power”.
The role of Nigel Bottom seems to be tailor made for Kyle Avery. Avery is utterly natural and perfectly believable as the gentle, soft-spoken poet & writer. His gentle tenor can either tug your heartstrings or fill you with the warm fuzzies and has two hallmark turns with the romantic “I Love the Way” and the moving “To Thine Own Self Be True”. However, he does need to be careful not to go overboard with the pitch on his speaking voice in some of his more lamentable moments.
Steve Krambeck adds some serious layers to the role of Nick Bottom. Bottom is a pretty conflicted guy. He’s a decent sort, but his jealousy of Shakespeare’s success and his desperation to dig himself out of a financial and creative hole compel him to act recklessly and behave childishly. Krambeck admirably balances and reflects Bottom’s many sides and adds his own mighty tenor with turns in “Bottom’s Going to Be on Top” and “God, I Hate Shakespeare”.
Chris Ebke and his orchestra show some impressive versatility with their handling of the highly varied score. Debbie Massy-Schneweis has supplied the best piece of choreography I’ve seen in a local production. This show has big numbers and Massy-Schneweis rises to the occasion with some of my favorite numbers being “A Musical” and “Make an Omlette”. The production was fortunate to have the skills of Joey Lorincz as he designed yet another stellar set with the Renaissance building cutouts and utilizing a screen which projected illustrations of London Bridge, streets, and parks to indicate locale changes. His lights always add something special such as tight spotlights on intimate numbers and his going to town with colors in “A Musical”. Leah Skorupa-Mezger’s costumes suit the Renaissance period with the poofy pants, the colorful jerkins, the period correct dresses, and an elaborate scene with dancing eggs and omlettes.
Some of the dancing needed to be a bit cleaner and relaxed and a few bits of dialogue weren’t picked up by the mikes, but that did little to stop the avalanche of awesomeness that was this show.
If you’re looking for some fun and are a fan of theatre or even an opponent of musicals, then this is the show to see. It’s the best thing going this summer.
Something Rotten! plays at the Ralston Performing Arts Center in Ralston High School under the auspices of Ralston Community Theatre through July 24. Showtimes are Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and Sun at 2pm. Tickets cost $23 and can be purchased at the Box Office, calling 402-898-3545, or visiting www.ralstoncommunitytheatre.org. Parental discretion is advised for this production. Ralston Community Theatre is located at 8969 Park Dr in Ralston, NE.