Sixteenth-century playwrights Nick and Nigel Bottom create world’s first musical in SBCC’s production of ‘Something Rotten!’
Move over, William Shakespeare.
Brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom are working to steal your thunder. It’s the 1590s, and they’re writing the world’s first musical, which they’ll call (drum roll, please …) “Omelet.”
As opposed to “Hamlet.”
To be or not to be? To sing or not to sing? Those could be the questions as the Bottom brothers essentially pay tribute to musical theater history in “Omelet,” the play-within-a-play in “Something Rotten!”
The musical will kick off the Theater Group at SBCC’s 2022-23 season.
The curtain for “Something Rotten!” will rise at 7:30 p.m. for the preview shows July 6 and 7. After that, the curtain for the regular shows will rise at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through July 23. Performances are at Garvin Theatre on the west campus of Santa Barbara City College in the 900 block of Cliff Drive.
Expect a large cast (28 actors), elaborate sets, a nine-piece band, dancing varying from tap to gymnastics-like steps, and stunning costumes, director Katie Laris told the News-Press.
“Pamela Shaw (the costume designer) is so brilliant,” she said. “You can’t imagine how elaborate these costumes are. They vary from full Elizabethan to these modern references to ‘Mary Poppins’ and ‘Annie’ and ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and everything in-between. The costumes are just beautiful.”
The show features musical direction by David Potter and choreography by Christina McCarthy.
“We’ve committed to doing a huge, multi-generational summer musical every year,” Ms. Laris said. “We feel like it’s such a great way for people to celebrate the summer, to create this happy event, which is the American musical.
“We wanted to find a musical that has heart to it, that has a great story, that makes us laugh,” she said. “That was the case with ‘Something Rotten!’
“It’s a very witty musical and has a story that has an uplifting message,” Ms. Laris said.
In “Something Rotten!,” Nicholis Shelley and Daniel Sabraw play Nick and Nigel Bottom, two playwrights struggling to compete with William Shakespeare (Nick Ehlen), the 16th-century rock star of the theatrical world. “Wherever he goes, people are shouting his (Shakespeare’s) name and going crazy every time they see him,” Ms. Laris said.
With Shakespeare so popular, “the two brothers are really struggling to have a hit of their own,” Ms. Laris said.
So Nick Bottom goes to see Nostradamus (Rod Lathim) to get the prophet’s predictions about what will be the theater’s biggest hit in the future. Nostradamus erroneously predicts the next big play will be “Omelet.” He should have said, “Hamlet.”
“He gets a number of things right about ‘Hamlet,’ but a whole bunch of things wrong,” Ms. Laris said. “It becomes very integrated with musicals. It becomes this kind of fantastic, hilarious mix of everything you remember about ‘Hamlet’ and essentially every musical you may have ever seen.
“In one song, there are references to 25 musicals including ‘Annie,’ ‘Chicago,’ ‘West Side Story,’ ‘Guys and Dolls,’ ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ ‘Evita’ and ‘The Music Man,’” Ms. Laris said.
She said the music is equally eclectic. “The music is quite a blend of everything from traditional musicals to lyrical ballads to a nod to Elizabethan music to a ton of rock music. It’s high energy, quick moving and quite stirring.”
The music and lyrics are by Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick, brothers who had the idea together for “Something Rotten!” (The musical’s book is by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell.)
The Kirkpatrick brothers’ story is about the Bottom brothers and the importance of family.
Ms. Laris said Nigel and Nick Bottom are working together to make something special happen in the theater. “Along the way, Nick Bottom goes off the path a bit, and it takes the love of his brother and the love of his wife (Bea, played by Madeleine Thomas) to get him back.”
Mr. Shelley, who plays Nick, said the character is jealous of Shakespeare.
“Nick Bottom is a very ambitious guy,” Mr. Shelley told the News-Press. “He’s a very loving person who has put a lot of weight onto himself: taking care of his brother, taking care of his wife. He’s a very compassionate person, but he gets caught up in being too ambitious and loses himself along the way.”
Mr. Sabraw, who portrays Nick’s younger brother, Nigel, said that character “is driven by a strong moral compass and a pure heart.”
But there’s room for growth, and as the play progresses, Nigel develops more self-confidence, Mr. Sabraw said.
Like other musicals, “Something Rotten!” has its love stories, including one for Nigel, who meets Portia (Hannah Brudney).
But Ms. Laris said, “The real love story is the love between the two brothers.”