By Keri Tombazian
Something delightful is happening at the Ahmanson Theatre. On the heels of its successful Broadway run, the hilarious Something Rotten hit the road in January and has arrived in L.A. just in time for the season to be jolly at the Ahmanson Theatre. The opening night audience came with open arms and bellies ready to shake with laughter; and laugh we did. Let’s get right to the star of the show: the music and lyrics by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick. “Clever” is not word enough to convey playwrights Karey Kirpatrick and John O’Farrell’s wink, nod, and kiss to Broadway, delivered in a story about two failed playwright brothers in Elizabethan England who try to keep up with William Shakespeare.
Rob McClure (Nick Bottom), Josh Grisetti (Nigel Bottom), Adam Pascal (Shakeseare), Blake Hammond (Nostradamus), and Autumn Hurlbert (Portia) belt out the score with such unabashed zeal and balls-out enthusiasm, it is impossible to wait until curtain to shout, “bravo!” Early in Act I, in response to “It’s a Musical,” we could not contain a quick-standing ovation, with much of the audience leaping to our feet. From the top of the show, when, with a spot-on tip of the hat to Bob Fossey, the Minstrel (Nick Rashad Burroughs) hits the heights singing “Welcome to the Renaissance” to the company finale, there is not a missed note, a phrase unturned, nor a saucy swagger missed. These are big, funny roles that must be played with equal parts “funny” and “sincere” lest they be nothing but cartoons and McClure delivers with the earnest indignation of one always struggling under the shadow of his rival, William Shakespeare.
Could he see playwright John O’Farrell’s image of him as a rock star complete with groupies and excesses, Shakespeare himself might be pleased. Adam Pascal brings all that panache and charm and grandiosity to the bard. Josh Grisetti oozes sweet sincerity as the brother who loves and reveres both Shakespeare and beautiful Portia (Autumn Hurlbert). Hurlbert is lilting and lovely and every bit worthy of love. Scott Cote has the difficult task of carrying all of the heavy-handed jokes as Portia’s pious, disapproving zealot of a father, Brother Jeremiah. Cote is more than up for the task with excellent timing−brushing his toe over the line just enough. Blake Hammond’s broad experiences on Broadway serve him well as the soothsayer, Nostradamus. It is a rare treat to see both subtlety and broad expansion in the same performance.
Clearly every member of the creative design team worked together to create a consistent, playful 1595 London. Scott Pask’s pared-down set design is effective, (if constrained to the limitations of a national tour.) It is a wonderful thing when comedy is sewn into costumes; Gregg Barnes’costume designs get a laugh or two all on their own. Jeff Croiter’s lighting design set up each number for success.
Give yourself a gift this holiday season; take yourself out of the noise of the world and step into the playful world of a laugh-out-loud musical. It’s a terrific way to end the year. Happy Holidays to you and yours; see you next year at the theatre.
Catch Something Rotten before it gets away; playing now through December 31st, 2017. Get your tickets HERE.