Tyler Hanes as Shakespeare with other members of the cast of “Something Rotten!” at Maine State Music Theatre. Photos by Jared Morneau Photography

Something a bit different is happening onstage at the Maine State Music Theatre.

For the final show of the season, Maine State has once again joined forces with the Fulton Theatre in Pennsylvania, this time to stage “Something Rotten!,” a loving send-up of both serious theater productions and classic musicals.

With a book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell and music and lyrics by Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick, the 2015 musical will remind some of the crazy period pieces created by Monty Python, Mel Brooks, and others. Comedy, both lofty and lowdown, mixed with a patchwork of era-spanning song and dance styles make for a light, lively and highly entertaining time as directed and choreographed by Maine State veteran Marc Robin at the Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin College campus.

The show concerns the Bottom brothers, Nick and Nigel, and their efforts to avoid censorious Puritans while attempting to outdo their illustrious competitor William Shakespeare in the theater world of Elizabethan England. “Welcome to the Renaissance” is the very merry opening number that sets the stage.

Jordan De Leon as Nigel, one of the two Bottom brothers determined to outdo Shakespeare. Photos by Jared Morneau Photography

Brother Nick (Bryant Martin) is the worrier who needs a hit (his show about the “Black Death” falls short) to support a growing family while Nigel (Jordan De Leon) is a bit more of a poet and a dreamer. They disagree a little on “God, I Hate Shakespeare.” But optimism ultimately wins out as Nick intones “Bottom’s Gonna Be On Top” by being true “To Thine Own Self.”

In some of the funniest scenes in the show, the brothers receive guidance from the eccentric soothsayer Nostradamus (Blake Hammond) and overeager financier Shylock (David Girolmo). Both lead them toward mounting a musical based on an idea lifted from the Bard.


The new musical, rooted in mistaken ideas gleaned from “Hamlet,” becomes a ridiculous hoot of a show within the show. It pokes fun at Shakespearean drama as well as many half-witted attempts at musical theater from centuries later. References to classic plays merge with those from more recent musical numbers, challenging audience members to identify their origins.

Tyler Hanes, as a slithery, black-clad Shakespeare, steals most of the scenes in which he appears as he circles around the brothers’ efforts, occasionally breaking into songs like “Will Power” and “Hard to Be the Bard,” while spicing them with some impressive tap dancing.

Lucy Godinez and Carolyn Anne Miller play the brothers’ love interests, and each gets a chance to add bold (Godinez) and bouncy (Miller) moments to the show. “Something Rotten!” demands broad portrayals, and they, along with all the others, certainly answer that challenge.

Sets, costumes and live musical accompaniment tweak theater conventions, adding touches to a show that pokes fun at it all while also gleefully confirming that the show must always go on.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

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