After around a month out of town, the first show I hit now that I’ve finally landed back in good old South Florida was the Pembroke Pines Theatre Of Performing Arts’ production of Something Rotten, which is nowhere near as distasteful as its name implies. This 2015 musical is one that I don’t think has been seen too often in the area, if indeed at all, making it a worthier excursion for the curious than PPTOPA’s last pick, which was the more well-traveled Cabaret.
Taking place during renaissance 1590s, Something Rotten follows brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom, a writing team seeking to make their big break in a theatrical landscape dominated by Shakespeare’s stardom. The script, which features plenty of Shakespearean in-jokes and punny diversions, is consistently clever, if not always quite clever enough to justify itself, which made for an evening and especially a first act that felt a little over-long.
But after some slow-moving exposition and somewhat tedious efforts to establish an emotional throughline, Something Rotten reveals its strong point a few songs into Act 1. This is when Nick Bottom visits the soothsayer Nostradamus to ask him what the next big thing in theater will be, in the hopes of using the psychic wisdom to finally outshine Shakespeare.
When the answer is “musicals,” Nostradamus explains the art form to Bottom by example in “A Musical,” a lengthy, fast-paced musical number that features a series of rapid fire parodies of Annie, Les Miserables, Rent, and just about every musical theatre offering in between.
As Nostradamus, area standby Matthew Korinko offers an instant burst of kooky charisma. Though he seemed a little less confident in song than in dialogue, he still ably carries the number, which eventually ends up involving the entire ensemble in its supercharged song-and-dance.
Thus, while the overall structure and storytelling of Something Rotten may leave a little to be desired, the show works in a big way whenever it gives itself over to this kind of over-the-top absurdity, as it does on-and-off throughout.
Ben Sandomir and Matthew Korinko with Company (Photo by Ron Pollack)
For instance, it also offers us a cheery showpiece about the Black Death and some fun numbers that conceptualize William Shakespeare as a boy-band style rock star, complete with back-up dancers and a crowd of screaming fans.
Though Nick Bottom’s constant cockiness made him somewhat unlikable as the closest thing we get to a protagonist in this ensemble piece, Ben Sandomir gives an excellent performance as the character throughout, at least acting-wise—though some of his softer solos revealed quite a lovely voice, I did notice him occasionally struggling vocally with some of the beltier numbers.
However, I don’t think I appreciated Sandomir’s true comedic chops until Act 2 standout “Something Rotten! / Make an Omelette,” another crazed reference-packed musical comedy send-up that topped even “A Musical”’s extravaganza. Somehow, Sandomir is still able to remain deadly serious even as Bottom dramatically soliloquizes about scrambled eggs, which comes about after Nostradamus erroneously predicts that Shakespeare’s next hit will be a play called “Omelette” rather than “Hamlet.”
Stephen Keenan as Nigel Bottom and Ben Sandomir as Nick Bottom (Photo by Ron Pollack)
Far more likable as characters are soft-hearted poet Nigel Bottom (Stephen Keenan), his star-crossed puritan love interest Portia (Shalia Sakona) and Nick’s spunky proto-feminist wife Bea (Sara Grant), and all three actors offer relatively strong performances.
As Shakespeare, Bob Ruggles seemed a little less consistent, but was ultimately effective in conveying his character’s egotistical persona. The play also showcased some first rate character actors in featured roles, including Chris Dreeson as Portia’s oppressive and repressed father, Larry Bressler as a flamboyant lord, and Murphy Hayes as a theatre-enthusiast Shylock.
Jessie Hoffman, Gabriella Giardina, Anna Cappelli and Courtney Ruebens (Photo by Ron Pollack)