by Terrance Mc Arthur
This is a Rotten review.
I don’t mean it’s badly written. I don’t mean it’s a review about a rotten play. What it is, is a review about a show called Something Rotten.
Let me put it this way.
In fact, it’s something terrific.
Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theatre overflows with the raucous, bawdy fun of the Good Company Players production of the Karey Kirkpatrick/Wayne Kirkpatrick/John O’Farrell 2015 musical, which runs through March 15.We’re back in 1595, smack in the middle of the English Renaissance, and the biggest thing outside of Queen Elizabeth is William Shakespeare (Shawn Williams). The Bottom brothers, Nick (Jacob Phelen) and Nigel (Thomas Hayes), can’t seem to match his success, so Nick seeks the advice of Nostradamus…Thomas Nostradamus (Steve Souza), a cousin of the famous astrologer-prophet. The next big thing in the theatre will be…musicals, and Shakespeare’s next big hit will be…Omelet, so the Bottoms launch a cracked scheme to produce a yolk-filled, tuneful combination of Bard, Broadway, and Brunch references. Nick’s wife, Bea (Emily Pessano), dresses as a man to get work. Nigel falls for Portia (Carol Foose), the poetry-loving daughter of Brother Jeremiah (Roger Christensen), a Puritan who sees theatre as the work of Satan. There’s a noble patron (Angelo Cervantes) tired of backing flops, and Shylock (Preston T Ward), a theatre-loving moneylender who is legally barred from partnerships with Christians, and it’s all wonderful chaos.
Williams bounces from being the lovable Buddy the Elf in GCP’s most recent production to a super-cool rock star performance as the brilliant-yet-devious playwright/thief of ideas who proclaims it’s “Hard to Be the Bard.” His rapid-fire delivery of quips, quotes, and rap creates a stunning impression. [By the way, my wife nominates his barber for an award.]
Phelen has a Jim Belushi-ish aura (with a touch of Fred Flintstone) as the blundering company leader who never seems to get it right. His verbal sparring with Shakespeare has just the right touch of awkwardness. After all, he isn’t the playwriting brother.
Nigel is the poet of the Bottoms, inventing lines that Shakespeare will steal. Hayes, who was the wonderful Padre in the recent GCP production of Man of La Mancha, has a sweetness reminiscent of Matthew Broderick, and a voice that wraps the audience in a warm blanket.
Pessano is brassy, busty, bursting with life, and bustling about the stage with a massive bustle (I think they called it a farthingale, then). She also choreographed most of the show in a dazzling collection of styles that range from soft-shoe to Fosse.
Souza is an explosion of energy as the slightly psycho psychic who gets things just-enough wrong to propel proceedings into close encounters of the funny kind. Christensen fights sin with proclamations that hold juicy double-entendres (The language in the show is not for the kiddies.), and his comic timing is oh-so-wondrous.
Foose’s GCP debut is one for the books, a naïve Jane Krakowski style with a blockbuster voice. Ward is earnest as the wannabe producer, Cervantes is giggle-worthy, and the ever-reliable Alex Figueroa is charming as the Minstrel who welcomes us to the Renaissance.
Laurie Pessano steers the production aright in her direction (as well as providing additional choreography), while Kaye Migaki supervises the tap routines (I haven’t seen this much tap in a show since 42nd Street!). Ginger Kay Lewis-Reed’s costume crew produced enough Elizabethan wear to clothe an entire Shakespeare festival (I love the biker-style, studded outfit for Shakespeare and his boy-bandish Bard Boys…and you’ve got to see the dancing eggs!) David Pierce strikes again with his half-timbered sets.
You don’t need Shakespeare for Dummies or an encyclopedic knowledge of Broadway musicals to enjoy Something Rotten. You’ll catch a lot of the references (Most of the characters are names from Shakespeare plays.), and you’ll be a-whirl in a storm of frivolity and silliness. You will enjoy it.
The show plays at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, 1226 N. Wishon, in Fresno. Tickets can be purchased on the GCP website or by calling the box office at (559) 266-9494.
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