UI Theatre department presents humorous retelling of Shakespeare and history of musical theatre with “Something Rotten!”

The show follows the two brothers struggling to come up with a show that will outshine Shakespeare. The performance was presented March 3-5, and will continue March 9-11 at the UI’s Mabie Theater.


© Chloe Trofatter / USA TODAY NETWORK

The cast for South Bend Civic Theatre’s production of Something Rotten rehearses July 12, 2022. The production runs from July 15 to 31, 2022. Civic Theater Puts On Something Rotten

Emma Gaughan, Arts Reporter

Being true to oneself — that’s how the cast and crew of “Something Rotten!” describes the theme of the show. The show was presented by the University of Iowa Theatre department at Mabie Theater March 3-5 and will continue from March 9-11.

“Something Rotten!” a play originally published in 2015, follows the story of Nick and Nigel Bottom, two brothers from the Renaissance who are competing with William Shakespeare to put on the next great show. Desperate to beat Shakespeare to the punch, Nick, played by Brandon Burkhardt, seeks out a psychic to find out what the next big idea in theatre will be — and discovers musicals.

“I remember the first read through, everyone kind of having this feeling like, this is going to be really fun,” Burkhardt said.

The show brought a large and enthusiastic crowd, selling out two shows on March 3 and 4. It was hard not to feel a deep connection with the characters, and that was evident in the reactions of the crowd.

“Deep down I feel like the show is a lot of a family,” Burkhardt said, commenting on the relationships between the characters.

While Shakespeare increases in popularity and Nick struggles to match him in writing, Nick is also struggling to keep his patron Lady Clapham, played by Virginia Muturi. Lady Clapham finds herself enthralled with Shakespeare’s work, which creates even more trouble for Nick.

“‘Something Rotten’ is about making art. ‘Something Rotten’ is about learning how to fully express yourself and your interest,” Muturi said. She shared that something she loves is that it’s a crazy show, which allows her the opportunity to be bold.

As Nick seemingly gets himself into more and more trouble throughout the show, his wife Bea, played by Samantha Mayer, continues to try and find ways to help him and their family. Bea is a go-getter who would do anything to take care of those she loves, something that Mayer said she was able to relate to.

“She’s very, very strong and true to herself. Even if it’s not what is status quo, she’s gonna stand up for herself and do what she knows is right for her and for the people that she loves,” Mayer said.

RELATED: Dreamwell Theatre presents world premiere of ‘the fog comes on little cat feet’

Aside from being musically appealing, the show had striking visuals in the form of set and dancing. The audience never found themself bored visually, as choreographer Sabrina Duke worked to make each number appealing.

“We’ve had so much fun playing,” Duke said, noting that it can be difficult to work on something that has been done many times before and still make it original. “It’s been so fun to just really make it our own.”

Duke said working with the cast has been particularly exciting, as they are all engaged and passionate about the show that they are putting on.

A show about Shakespeare’s competitors would not be complete without Shakespeare himself, played by Jacob Licht. Throughout the show, Shakespeare is treated as a celebrity, creating a sense of excitement between the characters and the audience every time he is on stage.

Despite Shakespeare’s constant need for attention, Licht shared that he feels quite differently about being on stage. For him, it’s about connecting to an audience and really telling a story.

“I think one thing that me and this character have similarly is our love for performing and our love for being involved in the arts,” Licht said.

Licht shared that if he had to sum up the show in one sentence, he would use a line from the show: “To thine own self be true.”