Something Rotten!

Love or Hate Shakespeare? Love or Hate Musicals? See Something Rotten!

Reviewed by Mary Alderson

Something Rotten! is the perfect show for the Stratford Festival. It mocks Shakespeare and musicals, ridiculing them both equally, proving there’s something for everyone. Despite poking fun at musicals, the dancing and singing are amazing. This show, now playing on the Festival stage, is truly one you should not miss.

I can’t explain the plot here; I don’t want to spoil your fun. I’ll give you the Coles notes version:  Nick and Nigel Bottom are playwrights, just like Shakespeare. But they haven’t quite reached his level and he’s getting all the glory. So Nick goes to Nostradamus who foresees the future and tells Nick that Shakespeare’s next big hit will be about a – uh – an omelette. (Nostradamus has trouble seeing the future accurately. Sometimes words like Hamlet and Omelette can get a little mixed up.) But he was quite clear about the Danish part. So Nick wants to beat Shakespeare to the punch by producing a new show about breakfast – eggs and Danishes. And to really show up Shakespeare, he decides to make a musical, something Shakespeare’s never done!

The humour in Something Rotten! reminds me of our beloved Canadian comedians Wayne and Schuster; taking something familiar and making it just plain silly. Credit goes to the writing team of the two Kirkpatricks and O’Farrell. As well, credit goes to Donna Feore, director and choreographer of this wildly hilarious show with outstanding dance.

Mark Uhre is brilliantly hilarious as Nick Bottom. He is proof that Shakespeare never had an original thought – Shakespeare uses his name in Midsummer Night’s Dream!  Urhe is overwrought with frustration as everyone adores Shakespeare. As his brother Nigel Bottom, Henry Firmston is an adorable sidekick. He doesn’t quite share Nick’s hatred of Shakespeare.

Dan Chameroy plays Thomas Nostradamus, the soothsayer who is only halfway reliable. Chameroy, a long-time Stratford favourite, is unrecognizable as Nostradamus, but his comedic talent is shines through. Jeff Lillico is perfect as the swaggering and conceited Shakespeare, stealing ideas left and right. Starr Domingue adds to the comedy as Nick Bottom’s wife, Bea, who has to pretend to be a man to get a job. Steve Ross is hilarious as Shylock and Olivia Sinclair-Brisbane plays Portia, the Puritan girl in love with Nigel Bottom, much to her father’s dismay. Her father, Brother Jeremiah, played by Juan Chioran, has many lines of double entendre where his words belie his Puritan ways with risqué meanings, to the audience’s delight.

The real stars of this show are the singer/dancers in the big numbers. I can’t reveal the amazing costumes here, it would spoil your fun. Suffice to say, they dance their feet off and belt out their voices. Twice on opening night, there were show-stopping numbers. The entire audience was on their feet giving these dancers two standing ovations mid-show. Truly remarkable choreography and staging. The entire cast got loud and long standing ovations at the conclusion.

If you’re a lover of Shakespeare, you will get a kick out of this zany musical. If you’re also a lover of musicals, you will love this show. Through the course of the evening, there are funny references to every musical ever made.

Stratford has two big musicals this year, and you need to see them both. See Something Rotten! for the crazy comedy, see La Cage aux Folles for the fun, which also offers a pull of the heart strings. This double bill includes what are quite likely the best musicals ever presented on the Stratford stages.

Something Rotten! continues in repertory until October 27 at the Festival Theatre, Stratford. Tickets are available at the Stratford Festival at 1-800-567-1600, or check

Photo: Dan Chameroy as Nostradamus (centre-left) and Mark Uhre as Nick Bottom (centre-right) with members of the company in Something Rotten!. Photo by David Hou.

Something Rotten!
Book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell
Music and Lyrics by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick
Conceived by Karey Kirkpatrick and Wayne Kirkpatrick
Directed and Choreographed by Donna Feore
Performed by Mark Uhre, Dan Chameroy, Jeff Lillico, Henry Firmston, Starr Domingue, Juan Chioran, Steve Ross, Olivia Sinclair-Brisbane et al.
May 28 to October 27, 2024
Reviewed by Mary Alderson


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