“The Funniest Musical Comedy in 400 Years” Comes to Spieker Stage
When Menlo’s Upper School Drama Director Steven Minning chose Something Rotten! for the fall play, it wasn’t just because it was hailed as “the funniest musical comedy in at least 400 years” by Time Out New York, nor because it’s been nominated for 10 Tony Awards (including Best Musical). Minning chose Something Rotten! because “it’s great for a group cast where they’re all actively participating in the performance, and everyone gets a chance to shine.”
Given that almost the entire cast is in the ensemble, there are almost 20 people on stage for most of the numbers. “The ensemble has the most important role,” says Vocal Director Marie Finch, “because they paint the picture of the show.”
The fast, funny, and irreverent story follows the journey of Nick and Nigel Bottom, two playwright brothers in the 1590s, on their quest to outshine Renaissance rockstar, William Shakespeare. When a local soothsayer predicts that the next big thing for theater will involve singing, dancing, and acting at the same time, the Bottom brothers set out to create the world’s first musical entitled, Omelette: The Musical.
“It is a mockery of musicals, and it’s a musical within a musical,” says Finch. The show features snippets of Chorus Line, Brigadoon, Les Misérables, Sound of Music, and Cats, so the singers have to have a big range. Shakespeare fans will recognize a lot of the lines from his plays embedded into the script. “It’s very smartly woven together, very clever writing,” says Minning.
“What I love about Something Rotten! is that the plot is very adventurous,” says Elizabeth Powell ’24. “Everyone is really high-energy, and it’s happy and comedic the entire time.” Powell is excited for the big tap numbers, a first for her in a Menlo production.
“It is an amazing show, all the numbers are well-choreographed, and the characters are enticing, really bringing you into the story,” says Beti Essa ’24.
Minning, along with Technical Director Andy Hayes, designed the enormous set themselves. The costumes—105 in total—were rented from a designer in Florida who created them for the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music’s production of Something Rotten! They arrived in 18 boxes—totaling over 700 pounds of clothes.
The real challenge will be outfitting the 20+ actors in real-time, for all of their different characters. “I mean, we’ve done big shows, but we’ve not had to change costumes, let alone period costumes,” laughs Minning. “We’re talking Shakespearean costumes!”
The crowd will love the show because it’s funny, smart, witty, and lively. Amory Healy ’24 agrees, adding, “Something Rotten! is not only a fun show to perform but also a fun show to watch. From its constant humor to beautiful costumes, this is definitely not a show to miss!”