Review | ‘Something Rotten’ at Santa Barbara City College

Musical Within a Musical Delivers on Laughs

(L-R) Hannah Brudney, Daniel Sabraw, Lucia Ramirez Solano, Rod Lathim, Nick Ehlen, and Marilee Larned in The Theatre Group at SBCC’s production of 'Something Rotten' | Credit: Ben Crop
(L-R) Marilee Larned, Nick Ehlen and Lucia Ramirez Solano in The Theatre Group at SBCC’s production of SOMETHING ROTTEN! July 6-23, 2022, Garvin Theatre, SBCC West Campus., 805-965-5935. | Photo credit:  Ben Crop

For devotees of the American musical, Something Rotten at SBCC delivers a laugh-out-loud “egg-stravaganza” with a clever, lightly self-effacing sense of humor. It’s a musical about making a musical — the first musical — and it pokes good-natured fun at the genre. The cast is huge (they barely fit on the stage for bows) and contains bright stars vocally and comedically that energetically move this musical along.

Nick Bottom (Nicholis Sheley) and his brother, Nigel Bottom (Daniel Sabraw), have a theater troupe in Elizabethan England where they toil in vain, always shown up by the dazzling works of William Shakespeare. Shakespeare (Nick Ehlen) certainly acts the part of the celebrity with his hype men and his high-fashion couture; he’s a smug hipster who makes for an amusing low-stakes villain trying to foil (and plagiarize) the Bottom brothers’ new theatrical work.

The work in question is a brand-new kind of theater where the performers dance and sing to further the plot instead of plain old talking. Nick Bottom discovers this idea with heavy influence from a local soothsayer (Rod Lathim) who also predicts that Shakespeare’s greatest play will be called Omelet. Thus, the Bottoms begin their production of Omelet: The Musical.

This show has many positive aspects. The set (designed by Patricia L. Frank) is attractive and functional: several moving set pieces swing around to form the interior and exterior of various London haunts. Stand-out voices include Hannah Brudney as Portia and Daniel Sabraw as Nigel Bottom. Willie Simpson is hilarious as the austere Puritan morality enforcer, and Rod Lathim gives a solid performance in the role of the classic clown.

Is it physically perfect? Are the kick-lines utterly in sync? No — but this ain’t Broadway. With director Katie Laris at the helm (and Christina McCarthy handling choreography), Something Rotten at SBCC is a charming show that makes for a fun night of musical entertainment. 

Speaking of music: a shout out to Something Rotten musical director David Potter who is celebrating 50 years with SBCC. Cheers to a half century of music!

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