“Something rotten!” at the Pioneer Theater Company • Salt Lake Magazine
During a theatrical season when many audiences are cautiously returning to live theater, most of us could use a little (or a lot) of escapism. After several pandemic procrastination, the resolutely not serious musical Something rotten! will finally take place Pioneer Theater Company from February 25 to March 12. Providing catnip for theater geeks, Something rotten! is more than just a goofy, crowd-pleasing musical – it’s a love letter to the art form that includes endless references, parodies and tongue-in-cheek celebrations of decades of Broadway favorites.
Something rotten! which premiered on Broadway in 2015, follows two brothers in Elizabethan England, Nick (Matt Farcher) and Nigel Bottom (Daniel Plimpton), who struggle to find work as playwrights. Adding insult to injury, the haughty William Shakespeare (Matthew Hydzik) continues to earn universal adoration for his classic works. Defeated, Nick seeks the wisdom of the diviner Nostradamus (Robert Anthony Jones), who tells him that the future of theater will be in musicals. Although many are skeptical, Nick and Nigel work together to write the world’s first musical, which they believe will ultimately give them more success than Shakespeare.
Something rotten! is packed with references and jokes to Shakespeare’s plays and a long list of classic musicals. Farcher calls this wacky, loving send-up “the epitome of musical theatre.” “It’s just slapstick: ridiculously stupid jokes over and over and over with the soul of musical theater inside,” he says. “It’s the exact opposite of attending a Renaissance play,” adds Hydzik.
In Something rotten! Shakespeare is more glam-rock superstar than high-minded poet – he serves as an over-the-top, obsessed antagonist to underdogs Nick and Nigel. (Christian Borle won a Tony Award for his portrayal of the role on Broadway.) In preparing for the role, Hydzik drew inspiration from the attitude of a young Peter O’Toole (“there’s something about him that is so delightfully British,” Hydzik says) and David Bowie‘s vocal styles. The hardest part of the role? “Facial hair growth,” Hydzik jokes. To look like an Elizabethan sex symbol, Hydzik drew inspiration from the man he calls “the sexiest British guy alive”: David Beckham.
In the song “A Musical”, Nostradamus predicts the future of musical theatre, which Nick, of course, immediately finds ridiculous. The eight-minute marathon features plenty of lyrical and musical references to beloved musicals and jokes about genre clichés, lines to characters that inexplicably burst into song. Farcher and Hydzik agree that watching Jones’ performance in the issue is a show highlight. “It’s the biggest tribute section to musical theater, which is really nice to come out of a pandemic and have a few years off, to just remember all those iconic moments in theater and be able to laugh at each of them and find joy in them,” says Farcher.
After a period away from live theater for fans and performers, Farcher and Hydzik hope the wacky joy of the production spills over to audiences. “Honestly, the biggest challenge is trying to get through rehearsals without laughing all the time,” says Farcher. “I can’t wait to hear laughter, just non-stop, from an audience.”
Something rotten! will be at the Pioneer Theater Company from February 25 to March 12. For tickets and more information, visit PTC website. Read more theater stories from salt lake magazine.