‘Something Rotten!’ scores a hit at Montgomery College Summer Dinner Theatre

Brilliant comic timing and choreography elevate this uproarious production.

It’s a hit! It’s a hit! Something Rotten! playing at Montgomery College’s 46th Annual Summer Dinner Theatre!

This polished, uproarious musical comedy gives the audience what it wants (to paraphrase its lyrics)—song, dance, comedy, clever puns, inside theater jokes, a super-charged cast, and the best part—choreography, which elevates this production from fun summer stock.

With a book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell and music and lyrics by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Patrick, Something Rotten! premiered on Broadway in 2015 and received 10 Tony nominations. Set in the ’90s—the 1590s—in Renaissance-era London, William Shakespeare is a rock star playwright. Two brothers, Nick and Nigel Bottom, struggling playwrights, are in direct competition with him and will do anything to mount a successful show.

Scene from ‘Something Rotten! at Montgomery College Summer Dinner Theatre. Photo by Juliana Quirino.

Something Rotten! is a musical comedy about the tension between art and commerce. Play to the crowd, be commercially successful, or as the artistic Nigel writes, “to thy own self be true” (words soon to be stolen by Shakespeare, a known literary pilferer). But never fear, these English paper themes are woven into some of the biggest, best-executed musical numbers. “Welcome to the Renaissance” kicks off the festivities and the brothers’ quest for theatrical success, which will end in hysterical musical send-ups.

Clever theater references from The Sound of Music to Cabaret to Chorus Line to Fiddler on the Roof abound in this ode to the musical theater. It’s irreverent yet sophisticated with tons of Shakespeare-inspired puns, or as the playwright is introduced in a glam-rock shout-out, “the man who put the ‘I am’ in iambic pentameter.”

As Nick Bottom, Terrence Bartlebaugh performs with a voice, presence, and comic timing that is made for Broadway musicals. His theatricality is matched by Katerina Gorlenka, who plays his rule-breaking wife, Bea. Superstar Will Shakespeare, played by Preston James, preens, pouts, and rocks the Renaissance.

The absolute standout performance in a production of standouts goes to…the wickedly funny MacArthur Maryn playing Thomas Nostradamus, the soothsayer who sees musicals as the future of theatrical success, except his vision is entirely skewed to hilarious results for Nick and Nigel. The showstopping musical number, “A Musical,” led by Maryn sharing his theatrical prophecies is delivered with such sure-fire style and pizzazz that this reviewer was astounded to learn that this was his first production at a non–high school level.

Others who round out this production with their strong performances include Layali Aljirafi as Portia, in particular for her rom-com scenes with the wistful Connor Myrna playing the poet Nigel Bottom; Samuel Gatica as the Minstrel; and Noah Green as the theater-loving moneylender Shylock, played with wise-ass production insights befitting any producer, though a few of his Yiddish phrases could be perfected for even greater laughs.

A special shoutout to the brilliant comic timing in this production. One performer, who with a turn of the head and studied glare made the audience repeatedly laugh—Eitan Amster as Brother Jeremiah, a Puritan preacher eager to shut down all theater—should be specially noted.

Scenes from ‘Something Rotten! at Montgomery College Summer Dinner Theatre. Photos by Juliana Quirino.

The show’s biggest hit is the choreography by Stefan Sittig. The choreography nodded to the different Broadway styles (chorus line, tap, glam-rock), and the high-energy moves were seamless—leveling up the entire production. Matt Bassett’s direction and Lucia LaNave’s musical direction were also top-notch.

Kristina Martin and her team’s delightful costumes blended the Renaissance with the post-modern, from flowing skirts to leather pants. These fanciful mashups complemented the show’s over-the-top irreverence.

All’s well that ends well…and this production of Something Rotten! ends very well—musical theater is in good hands at Montgomery College in Rockville.

Running Time: Two and a half hours with one 15-minute intermission.

Something Rotten! plays three more times — July 28, 2023, at 8 p.m., July 29 at 8 p.m., and July 30 at 2 p.m. — presented by Montgomery College Summer Dinner Theatre performing in the Theatre Arts Arena, Theatre Arts Building, Rockville Campus, 51 Mannakee Street, Rockville, MD. Tickets ($65 buffet and show, $25 show only) can be purchased online or by calling 240-567-5301 (box office hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.).

COVID Safety: Masks are optional but encouraged for guests, especially when serving from the buffet.


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