There’s something wonderful in Farmers Branch and it’s the Firehouse Theatre’s production of the musical Something Rotten! This show is an homage to musicals, theater, and the people who create it, including the most unique part: you the audience. Have you imagined what it was like to be in and of the theater in Shakespeare’s time? Something Rotten! transports you there in a fresh and fabulous way!
At the top of the show, we receive a melodious and fun “Welcome To The Renaissance” from Octavian Lewis’ Minstrel and the show’s entire Company. This opening number sets the tone and lofty expectations for the show, a promise of things to come that is kept throughout the show by the entire Company. The choreography, by Kelsey Jordan Ward, and the Company’s dancing are both engaging and high energy, including the incredible tapping. These actors have exceptionally fine voices and have been music directed well by Jason Philip Solis, who also delights on the stage, as the boisterous and bombastic Brother Jeremiah. Alex S. Freeman has directed a most marvelous production that tells its story well.
Well, and what is that story?!?! It’s the story of the Bottom brothers, two erstwhile thespians toiling alongside and in the shadow of the Bard himself, Shakespeare, portrayed as THE “rock star” of the Renaissance. Grant Hollowell himself is rock solid as the lovable, and struggling, older brother, Nick Bottom. The chemistry between him and younger brother Nigel, portrayed by Nicholas Haas, is believable, showing us the love and the frustrations that each has for the other. Hollowell’s Nick is driven and wants commercial success more than anything, while Haas’ sweet and sometimes shy Nigel thinks it doesn’t get any better than writing a moving play or poem. That’s a dichotomy you’ll often find behind the scenes in theater today. The brothers kill it with their acting Troupe as they sing “God, I Hate Shakespeare”, and the tortured angst of Hollowell’s Nick is palpable, as is the reverence that Nigel has for the Bard. Here too we see another hallmark of this production, the full and rounded characters created by everyone in the Ensemble, a well-directed crew indeed who truly bring their characters to life, each unique and readily distinguishable.
Briana Berk sparkles as the independent and outspoken Bea, Nick’s wife. Her big number “Right Hand Man” is worthy of its reprise in Act 2, and it’s evident she loves her lovable lug, Nick. Berk and Hollowell play off each other well and you see the love and care for each other. Yes, of course, you guessed it, younger bro Haas’ Nigel has his love interest as well, Faith Grier’s Portia, whose excitability during a poetry recitation is hilarious. I was charmed by their instant attraction and resulting jitters.
I haven’t mentioned laughter yet, but the show is a laugh riot and one of its most riotous characters is Hunter Lewis’ Nostradamus, whose eyes twinkle with mischief and magic from behind his false beard as he goes into a most comic trance. Lewis, Hollowell and the Ensemble deliver a true showstopper with “A Musical”, a huge rousing song and dance number chock full of clever comedy and choreography. Scott Straus gives a solid comedic turn as Shylock, a possible patron for Nick’s next production. Will Shafer as Lord Clapham/Master of the Justice adds some zest as these two funny and distinct men.
And finally, a word about the man, the myth, the magic who is Luke Weber’s Shakespeare. It’s no small task to play a “rock star” and Weber squarely hits the mark. Weber makes “Will Power” the amazing rock anthem/ballad it can be, ably aided by the Ensemble. Weber and the Ensemble deliver again with the clever “Hard To Be The Bard”.
Thanks to Dylan Hearns’ Sound Design this production also has notably excellent sound design, so important with a show like this one with such witty songs and dialogue. Dayna Dutton’s Costume Design, Hank Baldree’s Lighting Design, and the set by Logan Uhtenwoldt and Maggie Sproul are first-rate and set the stage for our players.
Do something wonderful for yourself and see Something Rotten!
Running Time: Approximately two and a half hours with one 15-minute intermission.
Accessible seating: Available
Hearing Devices Available: Not Available
Sensory Friendly Showing: Not Available
ASL Showing: Not Available
Production Sound Level: Comfortable
Noises and Visuals to Know About: None of note
See you at the theater!