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Something Rotten is Ripe with Laughter and Joy

Review by Liz Eichler of Something Rotten: Broadway in Cincinnati

Rob McClure and Adam Pascal in “Something Rotten”

One of the best production numbers I have ever seen is in Something Rotten, presented now through March 5 at the Aronoff. Nothing is held back–it is hysterical, opulent, frivolous, completely silly and excellently executed. But there’s not only one show stopping production number, there are many of them! And many reasons to “geek out” about this show.

Created by Karey Kirkpatrick, Wayne Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell, “Something Rotten” was nominated for 10 Tony Awards in 2015. It is the story of two brothers who are theatrical competitors to Shakespeare, looking for a way to outshine that shining star of London, so a brother goes to a soothsayer who predicts the future of theatre, but only comes “this close” to accurately naming, and hence incorporating, every musical theatre production. Ever. Hilarity ensues.

There is a LOT for theatre fans here. The husband and wife next to me, Aronoff subscribers, said she is always “dragging him along.” He said he usually enjoys the show, but this one he loved, and laughed all along. There are enough jokes for someone with a tenuous connection to the theatre world, but even more for those who can identify every subtle or over the top reference. And if you are not into the theatre jokes, the teenager behind us said there were enough penis jokes to entertain him (how many would that be?)

The spectacle of the show is geek worthy. You’ll see a top-notch Broadway scenic design by Scott Pask (Book of Mormon, Pippin, Finding Neverland) full of depth and color. The costumes are rich with a jewel-tone palette, and exaggerated codpieces, designed with exuberance by Gregg Barnes (Aladdin, Kinky Boots, Elf, Legally Blonde, and many more). Jeff Croiter designed the lighting (Newsies, Peter and the Starcatcher, Jekyll and Hyde). Casey Nicholaw (Aladdin, Book of Mormon, Drowsy Chaperone) is both choreographer and director, responsible for infusing this show with over the top moves and knocking it out of the park. Something Rotten is filled with expressive chorus boys and girls of various height to add to the comedic effect. They tap, they flip, they twirl—all in full Renaissance gear, over the knee boots, and…codpieces.

The cast features THE Adam Pascal (Shakespeare) portrayed with great humour as a pompous rock-star. The brothers, leader Rob McClure (Nick Bottom) and poet Josh Grisetti (Nigel Bottom) are great singers and dancers. The love story of Nigel and Portia accurately depicts the awkward backstage “geek love” between a gangly, tall, introverted sensitive teen and a feisty, short, and sensitive teen rebelling against her father. With great comedic timing and flair, Blake Hammond (Nostradamus) and Scott Cote (Brother Jeremiah) are audience favorites. Sweet Autumn Hurlbert (Portia) and powerful Maggie Lakis (Bea) round out the leads. They know how to connect with every audience member in the cavernous Aronoff and deliver amazing performances, accompanied by the energy of the electric guitar wailing in the orchestra.

“Something Rotten” is something you must see. It will put your faith back into touring shows. It runs through March 5 at the Aronoff in Cincinnati. Tickets: cincinnatiarts.org