Something Rotten! is the kind of musical that can change a musical-hater's mind. Somehow, it manages to mock the very idea of musicals while delivering one full of all the big production numbers and earworm tunes any musical lover could want. And its story of struggling playwrights working in the Renaissance shadow of Shakespeare is full of inside jokes for all theater lovers.
The colorful production, running at the INB Performing Arts Center through Saturday, opens with a minstrel welcoming the audience to the Renaissance and the rehearsal space of brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom, where they're running their actors through their version of Richard II while Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet has their community abuzz. We quickly learn that the Bottoms aren't merely professionally jealous — Shakespeare was actually an actor in their troupe until they gave him the boot — so his success is personally galling as well, as clearly illustrated with the hilarious song "God, I Hate Shakespeare."
Nick Bottom (Rob McClure) is the business brains of the outfit, while Nigel (Josh Grisetti) is the soulful writer, and when their sponsor tells them they need to come up with a fresh idea since Shakespeare is going to make his own Richard II, Nick visits a soothsayer named Nostradamus — Thomas Nostradamus, the nephew of the one you're thinking of — to learn what kind of show would be a hit with theater audiences in the future. What could make the Bottom Brothers as big as Shakespeare?
The answer? Musicals. Even though Nick is incredulous at the idea of actors bursting into song, he embraces the soothsayer's idea to write Omelette — a misreading of Hamlet by the magic man. Comedy — and frying-pan dance numbers, and songs about eggs — naturally ensues.
The jokes come fast and furious throughout Something Rotten!, in both the dialogue and song lyrics ("don't be a penis, the man's a genius!"), and the actors proved remarkably skilled at physical comedy as well, whether it's Nigel's beloved Portia (Autumn Hurlbert) literally falling down drunk, or Nostradamus (Blake Hammond) making a ridiculously dramatic hand motion when peer into the future.
The touring cast is blessed with incredible talent across the board. Adam Pascal's Shakespeare is treated as an Elvis-style rock star by the other characters, but he's also a man full of inner doubt, and that comes through. McClure's Nick Bottom and Grisetti's Nigel are endearing from the start, even when their characters don't act with the purest of intentions. And the room gets a serious jolt every time Hammond's Nostradamus takes the stage, the audience filling the INB with laughs as he name-drops a slew of popular modern musicals in his dialogue and songs.
Something Rotten! landed 10 Tony nominations when it hit Broadway two years ago, and while it might not be as well known as some of the Broadway shows that tour through town, it's certain to be one of the best of the season. Whether you're a musical fan, Shakespeare lover or even a sucker for Monty Python-style absurdity, you'll find a lot to love in this show.
Something Rotten! • Oct. 3-7: Tue-Sat, 7:30 pm; Sat, 2 pm • $39.50-$79.50 • INB Performing Arts Center • 334 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. • inbpac.com • 279-7000