Theatre Sarnia stages upbeat farce, Something Rotten!

Shane Davis, left, as the soothsayer Nostradamus, and Brent Wilkinson as Nick Bottom, a writer looking to dethrone William Shakespeare, in a scene from Theatre Sarnia’s production of Something Rotten! Photo courtesy of Emily Nutson

Cathy Dobson
Brent Wilkinson says when he saw the Broadway production of Something Rotten! he laughed until he cried.
“Aside from the humour it’s so smart and outrageous,” said Wilkinson who has a lead role in Theatre Sarnia’s upcoming version. “It’s pure fiction but it’s based on real events.”
Something Rotten! ran on Broadway for two years and was nominated for 10 Tony awards, including best musical.
Theatre Sarnia’s Jackie Burns also saw it on Broadway. In fact, she loved it so much she went twice, and decided instantly she wanted to direct it.
“I had to do this show,” said Burns who is also choreographer. “It’s so over-the-top. Anybody who has ever liked a musical will find something to love in this show.”
That’s due in part to the catchy tunes and clever references to familiar Broadway musicals, such as Chicago, Rent, Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar.
Something Rotten! is a new musical and not readily recognized by many, but Burns believes it will become a classic. It’s also a good choice as the first Theatre Sarnia musical following the pandemic, she said.
“It’s a hilarious, light, upbeat farce. It’s the laugh we all need right now.”
Wilkinson is cast as Nick Bottom, who runs a theatre troupe with his brother Nigel. The year is 1595 and the heyday of the Bottom brothers’ archrival William Shakespeare.
When a soothsayer predicts that singing and dancing will be the next big thing in theatre, the Bottoms set out to write the world’s first musical.
Auditions for Something Rotten! opened the floodgates for local singers and dancers happy to get back on stage after a two-year hiatus.
The cast of 36 is large with a big ensemble, eight leads, and an artistic team of 12. So many are anxious to get back to performing in community theatre that the big numbers required to stage Something Rotten! only added to its appeal, said Burns.
“I cast Brent in the part of Nick because he brings a lot of energy and layers to the character, she said.
Wilkinson, 34, is a theatre veteran, having performed in at least 20 musicals, including 10 in Sarnia.
“I love what the theatre community has done for me,” he said. “It feels like home.”
Real-life experience has prepared him to play Nick’s character, said Wilkinson, who is a creative writer at Blackburn Radio.
“I relate to Nick to a degree. I’m a writer and I’m a dreamer too.”
His favourite song in the show? That’s easy, Wilkinson said.
“It’s “God, I hate Shakespeare,” a funny shot at The Bard, “a hack with a knack for stealing everything he can.”
Other leads include Darryl Heater as Nigel Bottom, Erin Innes, Tayler Hartwick, Shane Davis, Devan Wales and Paul Skuza as William Shakespeare.
Note that Theatre Sarnia is accommodating those who prefer to wear masks at indoor events with a masked audience performance of Something Rotten on Sunday, May 22 at 2 p.m.

IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Theatre Sarnia’s “Something Rotten!” by John O’Farrell and Karey Kirkpatrick, music and lyrics by Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick.
WHEN: Nightly at 7:30 p.m. May 20-21, 25-28, and 2 p.m. May 22.
WHERE: Imperial Theatre, 168 Christina St. North.
TICKETS: Visit www.imperialtheatre.net or call the box office at 519-344-7469.
The Arts Journal reflects Sarnia’s cultural fabric. Send your ideas to cathy.dobson@thesarniajournal.ca.

A tap-dancing kickline performs a reference-filled showstopper in Something Rotten!
Photo courtesy of Emily Nutson