The Broadway Theatre located in Pitman, New Jersey, opened its latest show, “Something Rotten” on Oct. 28. The show, originally created by Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell, was directed by Drew Molotsky and choreographed by Heather Grasso.
“Something Rotten” tells the tale of the Bottom brothers, Nick, played by CJ Kish, and Nigel, played by Andrew Bozzelli, who struggle to become playwrights while standing in the shadows of the great William Shakespeare. Nick’s pressures to make it in the business are exacerbated by news that his wife, Bea, played by Rachel DeMasi, is now pregnant. Meanwhile, Nigel falls in love with Portia, played by Alyssa Arcangeli, the daughter of Puritan preacher Brother Jeremiah, played by Darrin Peters, who forbids their love because he believes plays are a distraction from the Bible and therefore a sin.
Nick goes on to seek guidance from the soothsayer Nostradamus, played by Will Carey — cousin to the famous royal advisor of the same name. Nostradamus leads him to believe that Shakespeare’s next greatest hit will be a musical named “Omelet.” Nigel and his brother struggle to put together the hit musical first while battling writer’s block and finding inspiration.
Catchy hits like “Welcome to the Renaissance,” “God, I Hate Shakespeare,” and “Right Hand Man” start the show off and set the fun and lyrical tone of the show. The ensemble cast makes a huge difference in the first two numbers. Their facial expressions sold the show with not one person failing to remain in character.
The big hit of the show comes toward the end of the first act. “A Musical” is one of the more popular songs from the soundtrack and a cast favorite.
“I grew up a theater kid so getting to do a seven-minute dance number that is a love letter to Broadway and the Musical Theatre canon is always a joy to perform,” said junior musical theater and dance major, Benjamin Helbert. “Not to mention the whole scene is just hilarious.”
The number includes a number of allusions to other Broadway musicals including “Rent,” “Annie,” “Cats,” “A Chorus Line” and “West Side Story.” It also features a wonderful tap dance sequence. It unlocks something deep within my heart to see dancers perform in perfect unison and that is just what this number delivered.
“Black Death” a musical number about “pesky little pestilence” known as the bubonic plague that resulted in the death of thousands during the 14th century. Despite its dreary subject, it’s a vibrantly upbeat and humorous song including the lyric “soon everything that’s dangling won’t be any good for dingling.”
A few songs later, Matt Robertson took the stage as England’s beloved playwright William Shakespeare to energetically perform “Will Power.” The song itself is a beautiful testament to the work of Shakespeare and includes many direct lines from his many works.
Toward the end of the song, a medical emergency in the audience caused a brief pause in the performance. After the curtain closed, the theater staff made a small announcement to inform the audience of the delay. A few moments later, the show resumed.
In my opinion, the staff handled the whole situation really well and treated the audience respectfully and professionally, leaving me greatly impressed.
Following “Will Power,” was another smash-hit “Bottom’s Gonna Be On Top.” CJ Kish ruled the stage with a strong performance. His personality-driven vocals and stage presence really drove the character.
Coming back from the intermission, Minstrel, played by Jerrod Ganesh provided an engaging pick-up back into the show. Robertson returned to the stage for “Hard to Be the Bard” and executed the swagger and arrogance one would expect from the esteemed writer. It’s hard to put into words how Robertson’s portrayal made me both hate and want to be Shakespeare but to put it simply, Robertson nailed it.
Further into the second act, Peters as Brother Jeremiah stunned audiences with a dazzling and flamboyant performance in “We See the Light.” It was my personal favorite from his character although Peters did an incredible job playing the hard knocks preacher with obvious hidden desires all throughout the musical.
Nigel’s real moment to shine followed after with “To Thine Own Self Be True.” The song itself lends itself naturally to showcase Bozzelli’s alluring voice. Plot-wise it’s a touching moment of attempted connection between Nigel and his brother.
Of course, “Make an Omelet,” an “original” song from the Bottom brother’s musical “Omelet” was a humorous and entertaining break from the heavy themes of betrayal and family displayed in the second act. I mean, what other musical can you watch to see dancing eggs?
The musical ends with an ensemble piece entitled “Welcome to America.”
It was so clear to see how much fun the cast had while playing these characters. While they only have about two months to learn, rehearse and put together this show, it would be nearly impossible to tell. Each actor brought their own talents into their characters, including the ensemble, which only worked to heighten the humor and craftiness of this show.
“If you’re looking for a light-hearted show with lots of dancing, upbeat songs, and tons of comedy, this is the show for you,” Rowan alumni and ensemble actor Natalie Donisi said.
Tickets for the closing weekend of “Something Rotten” can be found at https://www.thebroadwaytheatre.org.
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