Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Stage Review: "Something Rotten"

As I laughed and tapped my feet through the ludicrously brilliant "Something Rotten," my mind couldn't help but drift toward wondering how William Shakespeare would have felt if he had the opportunity to watch his life's work be relentlessly mocked.

I want to believe he would have hated it. The musical had me buying into its take that Shakespeare was an egotistical blowhard who scavenged, pilfered as much material as he could, made it a point to be his own biggest fan, reveling in his own celebrity. I want to believe that he would have scuttled "Something Rotten" the way he did "Omelette: The Musical."

Karey Kirkpatrick and John O'Farrell's masterwork is a blistering satire of Shakespeare, with just the right amount of love and appreciation to authenticate the scholarship behind the bawdy jokes.

The only drawback to the ridiculously inventive, stunningly choreographed and deliciously poison-penned musical is the difficulty of competing against itself.

The first act is almost too wonderful for the show's own good. With a relentless procession of blisteringly brilliant numbers such as "Welcome to the Renaissance," "God, I Hate Shakespeare," "The Black Death" and a tap-rap battle, it's impossible for the second act to hold serve.

A capable touring cast, led by Matthew Baker as Shakespeare, Matthew Michael Janisse as disgruntled stage producer Nick Bottom, Greg Kalafatas as Nostradamus's hapless nephew and especially Jennifer Elizabeth Smith, who is a Kristen Chenoweth-level revelation as Portia, the spunky, Puritan star-crossed lvoer of Nick's nebbish writer brother, Nigel (Richard Sitaletta).

With an oeuvre of Shakespeare's work, as well as popular Broadway hits to draw from, satirize, plagiarize and glorify, "Something Rotten" feels like a cherry-picked bouquet of incredibly entertaining references. A treasure from start to finish, "Something Rotten" is an essential watch for anyone with an interest in musical theater, Shakespeare or laughter. Watch it, then bring a friend and see it again.

The Broadway in Tucson production of "Something Rotten" is playing at Centennial Hall through Sunday. Purchase tickets here.

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