On April 7th through April 10th, Brandeis’ Undergraduate Theater Collective put on a hilarious production of “Something Rotten.” The show is famous for its humor and references to other musicals and this cast lives up to the humor that the musical is known for. While the show is effortlessly entertaining and the cast gives their all in every performance, the actual musical elements of the show leave a lot to be desired.
“Something Rotten” takes place during the renaissance and follows the Bottom brothers, Nick and Nigel, played by Ethan Kerstine ’24 and my good friend Zach Katz ’22, as they try to create the world’s first musical. The main plot centers around Nick, whose obsession with outdoing his rival William Shakeseare, played by Izzie Hon-Anderson ’25, leads him to the soothsayer Nostradamus, played by Leanna Ugent ’22, who convinces him that musicals are the future of theater and that he can outdo his rival by putting on a musical version of Shakespeare’s greatest work “Omelet,” a misreading of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” in case you didn’t get the joke.
The basic plot is utterly absurd to the benefit of the entire audience because it allows Nostradamus to make many jokes pertaining to the future musicals including everything from “Les Miserables” to “Lion King.” While a musical novice might only get certain references, seasoned veterans will laugh out loud at every joke. The show’s humor is aided by the cast’s excellent performances. In particular, Ugent’s performances as Nostradamus are especially energetic and hyper hilarious. Ugent brings a lot of physicality to the role from the moment she first appears by popping out from under the stage. Hon-Anderson is another notable performance as the popstar-esque Shakespeare. She portrays the bard as equal parts charismatic and conniving, as her character attempts to steal Nigel Bottom’s work which is the actual “Hamlet.”
Another important character is Nick’s wife Bea played by Rebecca Perlmutter ’24. Perlmutter’s boisterous portrayal of Bea is perfect for the character and she steals most of the scenes she is in. Perlmutter shows her range by being both an undeniably comedic character, as well as an emotional center for the show being the bridge between the Bottom brothers.
Nick and Nigel’s relationship serves as the emotional core of the narrative. Kersinte does an admirable job portraying both the highs and the lows of Nick’s character arc, showing Nick at his most hopeful in the act one finale “Bottom’s Gonna be On Top” and at his lowest, when his difference in vision for the musical lead to his brother leaving the show. Likewise, Katz perfectly embodies the sheepish but secretly talented writer Nigel Bottom. Several times during the performance, Katz manages to evoke both laughter and sympathetic cries from the audience from his mannerisms, as well as the intentionally awkward delivery of his dialogue.
The actors give their all in their performance, but the musical’s greatest flaw is the music itself. More often than not, the actual songs were lackluster and didn’t get as much of a response from the audience as the jokes and references within them. While there is no one actor whose singing is truly horrendous, the music just didn’t evoke that special feeling that makes you want to get up and sing along that can only be found in musicals. However, despite the lackluster vocals, the energy from the entire cast in their choreography more than makes up for this deficit. So while some people may not want to sing along, everyone will want to dance along.
Aside from this one critique, the show still manages to be undeniably funny, keeping the audience laughing throughout the entire performance. While it may not be perfect, the UTC’s “Something Rotten” is anything but.