Torrington, CT – SOMETHING ROTTEN opened at the Warner Theatre on Saturday evening and brought down the house with an outstanding production of a very clever musical presented by a stellar cast of community theatre performer royalty. The Warner is the first area theatre to secure the rights to this hysterical send up of the Broadway musical genre; there is really nothing else like it and I hope that this review will be the first of a long string of community theatre shows that I will gladly attend.
“This musical set in the ’90s – the 1590s – is hilariously funny and fresh. The show is a spoof on a spoof, and does its best to give us all a history lesson in Broadway musicals. Try counting all the musical theater references during the show and you’ll probably lose count halfway through Act 1. Top that off with enough Shakespeare references to challenge even the best of bards and you have the recipe for a great show.” – Joe Guttadauro, director
I fully expected the Warner Stage Company to rise to the challenge of this very big show, but I was blown away by every element of the production directed by the comedic genius that is Joe Guttadauro (MAMMA MIA!, ALMOST, MAINE in Goshen) and the musical maestro Dan Ringuette (DISASTER!, GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE, SPRING AWAKENING, ONCE) as the music director/conductor. The team gathered the finest team of talent for this large cast and, with the help of WSC production manager Sharon W. Houk as choreographer to the stars, guided them to make every single moment of the two acts shine brightly.
The tapping was amazing, the comedy was broad, the period costumes were spot on, the leading players slayed their roles, and the ensemble members sang and danced up a storm. In his curtain speech, Mr. Guttadauro shared that the stellar cast had “worked tirelessly” to bring this show to glorious life, and this was obvious; even more importantly, every face on the stage appeared to be having the time of their lives.
“Welcome to the Renaissance!”
SOMETHING ROTTEN tells the plight of Nick Bottom, a playwright living in 1590s London, struggling resentfully in the shadow of one very famous Bard. Nick is determined to beat his rival Shakespeare and consults a soothsayer named Thomas Nostradamus, the lesser-known brother of the prophet. Thomas rightfully predicts that the next big thing in theater will be “A Musical,” but he gets the details of what Shakespeare’s next big thing will be (think HAMLET) completely wrong. Nonetheless, Nick and his younger brother Nigel gamely set out to write the world’s very first musical based on the egg-straodinary predictions, with hilarious results.
The book for the show was written by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell with often blindingly clever music and lyrics by Karey Kirkpatrick and Wayne Fitzpatrick. Arrangements that include a slew of riffs from other Broadway shows were written by Glen Kelly with orchestrations by Larry Hochman, and the Warner orchestra made it all sound magically
Ms. Houk told me that this was the first show for which she got to choreograph the tap dancing since THE PRODUCERS and she enjoyed every minute. The tapping was expertly performed by a core of 13 featured tap dancers, all of whom were a joy to watch.
Michael Ruby (NEWSIES) opened both acts with a powerful voice and plenty of charm in “Welcome to the Renaissance” in his role at the Minstrel. There was madrigal music playing before the show and during the intermission.
It was such a pleasure to see John Ozerhoski, affectionately known as Johnny O, on a stage again in the role of Brother Jeremiah. While every character earned their fair share of laughs, it seemed to me that Mr. Ozerhoski, last seen as Captain Hook on this stage, had the lion’s share, all well deserved. Erika Blasko (A CHORUS LIVE, SPRING AWAKENING) had the honor of playing the pious Puritan’s daughter, the lovable Portia; this triple threat of an actress was glorious in the goofy role.
“To Thine Own Self Be True…”
I was proud to see that Travis Karas (Gaston in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST with BSCT, Prof. Bhaer in LITTLE WOMEN) was cast in the important role of the Bard himself in his debut at the Warner, the role played by one of my favorites, Christian Borle, on Broadway in black leather pants. Even when dressed in a ridiculous disguise, Mr. Karas played the role of Shakespeare to the hilt.
As the Bottom brothers, Frank Beaudry and Zachary Taylor were the perfect pair. Mr. Beaudry was perfectly cast as the elder playwright Nick and he embodied the role of the writer who sings “God, I Hate Shakespeare.” I knew that he would be perfect to act out this role, and he showed off a wonderful singing voice and danced with the best of those that shared the stage in what he reveals in his bio was his first time tap dancing. For his part, Mr. Taylor (Crutchie in NEWSIES, A CHORUS LINE with Landmark) was the perfect choice for the role of young Nigel Bottom; the slightly geeky yet extremely talented poet came alive in the performance of this talented performer and the strong relationship between the two brothers was easy to see, even when they weren’t on the same page.
How much I enjoyed seeing Eric Lindblom (Chef Louis in LITTLE MERMAID, George Banks in MARY POPPINS) take on the role of Thomas Nostradamus, in a crazy wig and trying mightily to predict the future and making us laugh throughout. I was so busy enjoying his part of “A Musical” and its tag that I missed a slew of Broadway references embedded in this song that he performed with Mr. Beaudry. I tried not to worry about his knees as he worked his way through some of the dance moves, and he came through unscathed.
In a show definitely heavy on male roles, Alyssa Biana (Sophie in MAMMA MIA!) was able to shine as the devoted and early feminist wife of Nick Bottom, Bea, which was the role originated by Heidi Blickenstaff on Broadway. She charmed the audience as the woman who just wants to be her husband’s “Right Hand Man.”
The fabulous character actor Rick Fountain (MARY POPPINS, PETER AND THE STARCATCHER) nailed the roles of patron Lord Clapham and the Master of the Justice. I smiled every time the charming Pat Hearn (EVITA, SPAMALOT with Landmark) entered the stage in his role as Shylock and he made the most of every minute of this fun role. As members of Nick Bottom’s acting troupe, Tyler Bard (TOMMY, NEWSIES) had fun as Tom Snout, Mr. Ruby returned as Snug, Marc Costanzo (DISASTER!) played Francis Flute, Jason Maur (DISASTER!, THE FULL MONTY) played Robin, Scott Iwanicki (MAMMA MIA!) was Peter Quince and John Mullen, Jr. (THE FULL MONTY) played both Yorik and the Eye Patch Man. Eric Wilczak, usually directing a production, took a break from all that tap dancing to play the role of Horatio in his first musical in ten years. Kudos to every one of those featured tappers and all of the committed members of the large ensemble.
Kudos to costume designers Renee C. Purdy and Thomas Gordon on putting together the seemingly never-ending costume changes required in the script, ranging from Renaissance peasant garb to dancing eggs in “Make an Omelette”…seriously. I loved the addition of various “classic musical” costumes during a production number of the musical “Omelette.” The set design by the director and Stephen W. Houk featured houses that were Tudor and more. Lighting designed by Kyle Kurtich and Ms. Houk was effective and sound design was by Dustin Pfaender.
The amazing orchestra led my Mr. Ringuette in his usual spot at keyboard 1, included John Dressel on keyboard 2, Holly McCann on keyboard 3, Dan Porri on bass, Mark Garthwait and Mark Wilcox on a variety of guitars, Scott Kellogg on drums, Shannon Copeland on reeds, Eric Myers on trombone, Mark Levandowski on trumpet and Sara McDonald on violin.
Dick Terhune was the voice of the house announcements before the show; Mr. Terhune will appear in the upcoming production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, a dramatic solo performance, Dec. 7-15, 2019.
SOMETHING ROTTEN is presented with one intermission and tickets are available on the Warner Theatre website. This show is whatever the total opposite of “rotten” would be and is definitely on the list of “not to be missed.” Run, don’t walk and get thee to the Warner to catch one of the remaining performances.
Nancy Sasso Janis, writing theatre reviews since 2012 as a way to support local venues, posts well over 100 reviews each year. In 2016, her membership in the Connecticut Critics Circle began and her contributions of theatrical reviews, previews, and audition notices are posted not only in the Naugatuck Patch but also on the Patch sites closest to the venue. Follow the reviewer on her Facebook pages Nancy Sasso Janis: Theatre Reviewer and Connecticut Theatre Previews and on Twitter @nancysjanis417 Check out the NEW CCC Facebook page.
Click here to read about Naugatuck/Bethwood Patch Mayor Nancy Sasso Janis.
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