IU Theatre’s production of “Something Rotten!” will premiere at 7:30 p.m. on April 14 at the Ruth N. Halls Theatre. The musical comedy, full of fantastical wordplay and Broadway references, will run until April 22.
Set in the 1590s, “Something Rotten!” follows brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom as they attempt to garner theatrical success. As they venture in their quest to write and stage the next best play, however, they struggle to compete with none other than famed playwright Shakespeare.
When funding falls through for their production of “Richard II,” Nick panics and employs a soothsayer to look into the future and reveal Shakespeare’s next big hit. As the soothsayer looks into the future, he discovers a new form of theatre: the musical. With their troupe, the brothers set out to produce the wordsmith’s idea for a new show before he even gets the chance to think of it.
Cynthia Kauffman, an IU senior studying musical theatre, plays Portia in the musical. Portia, a silly yet passionate Puritan, falls madly in love with Nigel when the two meet and bond over their shared love of Shakespeare and poetry. Kauffman said this production has helped her realize how hard comedy is to pull off on stage.
“There’s so much that has to be perfectly timed or said the right way for certain jokes to land with an audience,” Kauffman said. “But I’m excited for the audience to see a big, happy and funny musical.”
Although the show utilizes Shakespearean elements, Kauffman said the comedy in “Something Rotten!” still has the ability to land with audience members who may not know or enjoy Shakespeare’s work.
“Shakespearean language is in about 30% of the show, but it’s used as satire so it’s really fun for audience members who may not know Shakespeare,” Kauffman said. “It’s mocking — but also recognizing — that it’s an important part of theater history.”
After eight weeks of rehearsal, Kauffman said she’s most excited to see the big dance numbers come to life on stage.
DJ Gray, an IU professor of practice who teaches musical theatre dance, is the director and choreographer of “Something Rotten!” Gray — whose choreography credits include numerous Broadway productions — said the production has a mixture of classical Broadway choreography with big and broad movements.
“This is a show about making fun of musical theater,” Gray said. “In order to do that, I brought forward the most well-known steps people could identify with. There are three tap dance numbers in the show, and we’ve not done a tap show at IU in a while so it’s very exciting bringing this to the stage.”
“Something Rotten!” debuted on Broadway in 2015. As a newer musical, Gray said, it will probably be repeated on professional stages in the near future when the students in the show leave IU.
“When they’re auditioning for this production in the future, they’ll know the content and the tone of the show,” Gray said. “It gives them that kind of experience.”
As the cast and crew prepare to premiere this production, Gray said she hopes it can bring audience members joy, laughter and hope.
Tickets prices for “Something Rotten!” range from $10-$20 are available on IU’s Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance website.