To be or not to be…Shakespeare, that is

Reviewer: Kristine Gotham

Venue: Bay City Players

What do you get when you blend Director Michael Wisniewski, Music Director Jan Sutherland, Choreographer Jeanna Peglow and twenty-five actors together?  A phenomenal show!  Something Rotten completes its run at Bay City Players this weekend and if you missed it then I am sorry because you missed something truly wonderful.

The play’s central characters are Nick Bottom (Kyler Syring) and his younger brother, Nigel Bottom (Brady Katshor).  The two brothers are playwrights during the time of Shakespeare (Jason Applegate).  Shakespeare (sung out from his adoring fans)!  While the brothers have the same desire to present theater to the masses, they have not found the same acclaim as Shakespeare.  Shakespeare!

After their patron threatens to withdraw funding if they don’t produce something truly wonderful, Nick seeks the vision of a soothsayer.  What will Shakespeare’s next work be?  The work that people will be talking about for all time.  The sage, Nostradamus (JoAnn Pobocik), Thomas that is, looks far into the future and sees this next great work, a musical.  A musical?  Yes.  And it shall be called, Omelette.  This is going to be Shakespeare’s next great show?  Yes.  After much thought and consideration, Nickl decides to go for it, to produce the musical, Omelette.  Upon hearing this, the brothers’ patron, Lord Clapham (Leslie Larkins), does indeed withdraw.  But all is not lost, a local money lender, Shylock (Ron Elliot), steps in to fill the gap.  Nick is breaking all the rules, laws actually.  His play has singing and dancing, it has women on stage, and it is being funded by a Jew.  The brothers find themselves on the wrong side of the powerful religious leader, Brother Jeremiah (Dale Gibboney), who goes about town railing against the evils of all things theater.  

But there is something that Nick and Brother Jeremiah don’t know, Nigel Bottom, a gifted writer and fan of Shakespeare, and Brother Jeremiah’s daughter, Portia (Claire Patterson), have fallen in love.  Nigel writes beautiful poems for Portia.  He and Portia attend a party at Shakespeare’s home, where Shakespeare reads some of Nigel’s latest work.  Intrigued by the brothers’ next project and hoping to learn more, Shakespeare joins the ensemble of Omelette, in disguise of course.  

Nigel and Portia’s relationship soon comes to light and Brother Jeremiah sends Portia off to Scotland.  Meanwhile, Nigel tells Nick that he wants to write something real, to be true to himself.  The brothers argue and split up.  Shakespeare’s true identity is revealed.

But the show must go on.  Nick moves forward, with the patronage of Shylock, and produces the world’s first musical, Omelette.  The show is a huge success!  Patrons are lined up around the block to buy tickets.  Brother Jeremiah is furious!  He drags the brothers into court where they are found guilty and sentenced to beheading.  Nick’s wife, Bea (Rebecca Smith), pretending to be a barrister, argues that beheading is too much.  Suddenly, in walks Shakespeare.  Shakespeare!  He speaks on the brothers’ behalf and the sentence is changed from beheading to banishment.  The brothers will be sent to America.  Portia, having returned from her exile in Scotland, decides to go with Nigel to this new land.  The play ends with the entire company singing “Welcome to America”, it’s a place where dreams can come true.  

Everything fell into perfect harmony for this show.  Under Wisniewski’s direction, the large cast created a realistic world of actors and Renaissance-era people.  The costumes were exactly what you would expect to see in Renaissance England.  The set, while minimal, provided enough atmosphere, to create the environment that each scene needed.  Each actor and ensemble member fully embodied their character, transporting the audience from a theater in Bay City, to a town in Renaissance England.  This show was indeed phenomenal.

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