Don’t take it literally ‘Something’s Rotten’ couldn’t be further from the truth as this ripe PPAC performance delivers a good time.
Broadway musical offers Shakespearian good time at PPAC
PROVIDENCE – “Something Rotten!” is just plain fun. This musical is packed with all kinds of laughs, from the snicker at a clever phrase to all-out belly laughs. It has a Grammy-nominated score, fabulous costumes and a great set. But the main reason to see the touring production now at the Providence Performing Arts Center is the cast. Three of the principal actors appeared in the show on Broadway, and everyone else could have. The talent is amazing from top to bottom. Actually, the Bottoms – Nick and Nigel Bottom – are at the top, as the lead characters. The brothers are 16th-century playwrights laboring in the shadow of the most famous playwright of the Renaissance, William Shakespeare. Nigel is a gentle soul, a poet, while Nick is the ambitious one; he wants to write a show that will outshine Shakespeare. In a desperate quest for the next big thing in theater, Nick consults a soothsayer, Thomas Nostradamus, who predicts shows in the future will combine singing, dancing and acting. Nick is skeptical about actors suddenly bursting into song, but Nostradamus makes a good argument, so Nick goes for it. The ups and downs of putting together this new-style production are first and foremost very funny, but told with just enough heart to sustain interest in the brothers’ endeavors. What makes “Something Rotten!” different and so very entertaining is its referential writing. Familiar Shakesperean quotes turn up in dialogue and song. Allusions are made to more iconic musical theater productions, old and new, than you can count, from “Anything Goes” to “Cats,” “Rent” and “Les Miserables.” The inventive ways brothers Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick work these connections into the score, and into the book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell, make for ongoing laughs of recognition. The show-stopping extravaganza A “Musical” in Act I has a head-spinning collection of references to famous musicals, iconic choreography and even venues, including a spectacular Radio City Music Hallstyle kick line, performed here in the “puffy pants and pointy boots” of the Elizabethan era. The humor also comes in the characters. Shakespeare is portrayed as a rock star, and when he gives an outdoor reading – the origin of Shakespeare in the Park? – he’s accompanied by lights, music and the Chippendale-like Will Power Backup Boys. As Will, Adam Pascal is so different from his wellknown Broadway role as Roger Davis in “Rent”; here he embraces the Bard’s celebrity persona in hilarious ways. The cast has multiple bright stars, starting at the top with the Bottom brothers. Tall and gangly Josh Grisetti is perfect as Nigel, the goofily sensitive poet, while Rob McClure is a memorable Nick; he’s an expressive comedian and actor who brings loads of personality to the role. Both are funny in large part because of their foibles. Maggie Lakis is a stand-out as Bea, Nick’s take-charge wife whose willingness to do non-traditional work is yet another reference, this time to women’s roles; she also has a powerful voice. Autumn Hurlbert is a lovely vocalist as well as a hoot as Portia, who falls for Nigel despite her father’s disapproval – a familiar musical-theater trope. Ironically, that father, the rigidly Puritan Brother Jeremiah, can’t seem to speak without inadvertent double entendres, spoken with perfect delivery and reaction by Scott Cote. And nobody will forget the work of Blake Hammond as Nostradamus, the soothsayer whose predictions are not pinpoint accurate. Before reaching a potentially melodramatic but predictably happy and appropriate ending, “Something Rotten!” does it all – music, dance, comedy, drama – and does it extremely well. It’s Broadway brought to Weybosset Street. Don’t miss it. Performances of “Something Rotten!” continue through Sunday at the Providence Performing Arts Center, 220 Weybosset St. Tickets are $41 to $88 and available at the box office in the theater, by calling (401) 421-ARTS (2787) and online at www.ppacri.org.
ABOVE: Autumn Hurlbert and Josh Grisetti in “Something Rotten,” a Broadway musical playing through Sunday at the Providence Performing Arts Center.
LEFT: Adam Pascal and the show’s cast.