It has been a while since I’ve reviewed an all-volunteer show at Footlite Musicals, which I have always admired for its quality and professionalism. So, I was particularly pleased when Conner Chamberlin, marketing liaison and cast member of “Something Rotten!” asked me to review the production, which runs through June 22. I had the pleasure of seeing the show on Saturday at Hedback Theatre on Indy’s near northside.
Looking back at the impact the pandemic had on humanity world-wide, it is generally agreed that one thing that was missed the most was human connection and the ability to interact and gather with others in a shared activity., especially live entertainment. And what better conduit to serve that need than community theatre in which there is participation both on and off stage and the audiences who benefit from seeing it. And when it comes to community theatre, Central Indiana is blessed with its share of organizations that cater to avocational artists. One of the oldest, and indeed most ambitious and innovative is Foolite Musicals which was founded in 1955.
“Something Rotten!” is a wacky and offbeat musical comedy with a book by John O’Farrell and Karey Kirkpatrick, and music and lyrics by brothers Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick. Opening at NYC’s St. James Theatre on April 22, 2015, the show played for 708 performances and was nominated for ten Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Christian Borle, who starred in the show, won one for Best Featured Actor in a Musical.
The story, set in 1595, follows the Bottom brothers, Nick and Nigel, who yearn for success in the theatrical world, but are thwarted by the looming presence of their more-celebrated colleague William Shakespeare. Raucous, uproarious and campy, this hilarious spoof is filled with references to the works of Shakespeare and numerous musical comedies One doesn’t have to be a musical theatre aficionado to appreciate the witty references sprinkled through the show, but devotees of the uniquely American art form will appreciate it the most.
Skillfully directed by Edward Trout and masterfully produced by Susan Bott, the Footlite production showcased a high degree of acting, dancing and vocal talents, as exhibited by the 33-member cast that was as disciplined and committed as any professional company I’ve seen on any stage. Most impressive was their execution of Trish Roberds’s sprightly choreography (the tap-dance sequences are divine) and fine vocal performances overseen by seasoned vocal director Michael Davis.
All of the leads and those in supporting roles, including Kayvon Emtiaz as Nick Bottom, Troy Bridges as Nigel Bottom, Jessica Hawkins as Beatrice Bottom, Rick Barber and Shakespeare, and Ellen Vander Missen as Portia, were stellar. Standing out for one of the most outstanding comedic performances I have seen this season was Darrin Gowan as the deadpan soothsayer Nostradamus.
Especially impressive was the production’s 15-member orchestra, led by conductor Jill Stewart, who handily interpreted the Kirkpatrick brother’s’ catchy, lively score with a substantial degree of efficacy.
As far as productions values, there were a few flaws and imperfections such as vinyl leggings that substituted for men’s bootlegs, and scenic changes during which crew members were visibly seen, without benefit of blue light. Though distracting, they were easy to forgive, considering the show’s overall positive elements. They included designer Vickie Tewes’s Renaissance-inspired costumes, Stephen Matters’s period sets, Maria Matters’s lighting design, and Drew Bryson’s stellar hair, wig and makeup design.
For those desiring a few hours of entertainment and pure escapism, “Something Rotten!” is guaranteed to please. I highly recommend not to procrastinate, however. Based on the enthusiasm of the nearly full house when I was there, I suspect word of mouth will make this a sought-after ticket, so get thee to the Footlite box office, via footlite.org as soon as possible.