BY SANDY STAGGS
Mauldin Cultural Center has done it again! Still in awe of the company’s phenomenal production of Newsies, this reviewer was sitting on the edge of my chair for most of the Upstate premiere of Something Rotten! at the penultimate performance of this ridiculously witty musical carried out to perfection and rivals the quality of any of the larger, more established theatres in the Upstate.
With dazzling music by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick and an intriguing script by John O’Farrell and Karey Kirkpatrick, Something Rotten! concerns two struggling brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom (a playwright and a poet) who are envious of the success of former friend and actor William Shakespeare and furtively invent a new theatrical experience known as the “musical.”
This show is packed with powerhouse performances with Kristofer Parker (also co-choreographer with Michelle Malone) as Nick, director of a second-rate acting troupe whose members are named after the Mechanicals in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Parker shows off his vast range of comedic chops here with a naturalistic, delightfully rich display, particularly in his contempt for living in the shadow of the rock star Bard in “God, I Hate Shakespeare” and the hilarious “This Bottom’s Gonna Be On Top.”
But even a pro like Parker could not stay in character Saturday night when co-star and stage wife Meg Jones’ fake beard landed on the floor mid-courtroom scene, causing a raucous thunderous reaction from the audience.
Jones (also assistant director) is a force of nature. in case you missed her as vaudeville performer Medda Larkin in “Newsies,” she exudes personality and is a helluva belter as Bea, reveling in both sweet devotion to Nigel and his promising career, and a streak of independence and women’s liberation by temporarily switching gender to support her family.
Ryan Holub-Ward is phenomenal as the nerdy, lovelorn poet who finds his soulmate and sonnet aficionado Portia (a gem of a vocalist in “I Love the Way” Cheyenne Rivenbark). From the hyperventilation fits to the fastest poetry recitation on record, Holub-Ward is thrilling to watch.
And for once, stage chemistry is convincing among both leading couples.
Which brings us to William Shakespeare. Ladies and gentlemen, Drake King has arrived. With three high-profile shows in six months (The Final Countdown and Newsies), King gives his finest, over-the-top and naughtiest performance to date. Yes, folks this is a PG-13 musical and King’s Conrad Birdie (Mill Town Players’ 2017 Bye Bye Birdie) times 10. The ego, the “I’m too sexy” suave, rock star thrusting and chest-baring. “Will Power” and “Hard to Be the Bard” are two of the best numbers I have seen all season.
Other standouts including the incredibly entertaining and unrecognizable Joey Plyer as soothsayer Nostradamus; Joel Dupont as the pious minister and father of Portia, Brother Jeremiah; and Elijah Daniels as the spirited minstrel (what a voice!); Ryan Oliver as Shylock, the Jewish patron; and Bekah Frampton as Lady Clapham.
Rounding out the Mechanicals are Kobe Powell as Robin, Alex Poteat as Peter Quince, Charlie Wolfe as Francis Flute; and as Tom Snout, William Brown, who is by far the finest dancer in the troupe, with clean lines and style.
Something Rotten! requires vast numbers of dancers and ensemble members. And Mauldin never disappoints with its huge dance numbers, and topping it off with an ensemble tap routine in “A Musical,” an irreverent farce and homage to the many iconic musicals that came before this one, often with a mere costume of one line from a song.
Also in this production in multiple roles from eggs to a psychic are: Lauren Bennett, Kya Bielecki, Alyson Burrell, Kelsey Durham, Rachel Gasdia, Megan Knight, Allison Mitchell, Katie Jo Oliver, and Abbey Sullivan.
The choreography is spectacular, the costumes by Jenny Bennett are period, plentiful, and often ornate or in “leather;” Zachary Urban’s seedy London scenic design is minimalist but abundant with cleaver pop-out and sliding set pieces and backgrounds. And the lighting effects (Tim St. Clair, II) are festive and spot on!
This production is directed and music directed by Tim St. Clair, II, and credit him for pulling off this joyous, edgy programming choice in such brilliant, high-octane fashion.
You have one final chance to see Something Rotten! today at 3 p.m at Mauldin Cultural Center, 101 East Butler Road in Mauldin. For tickets, visit mauldinculturalcenter.org or call (864) 335-4862.