Something Rotten dares
to attack Shakespeare
Côte Saint-Luc Dramatic Society presents a witty musical set in the Bard’s time
By Byron Toben
August 10, 2023
The Côte Saint-Luc Dramatic Society, a superior community theatre group, has brought off-Broadway hit Something Rotten north from the state of Denmark to the Montreal area.
Shakespeare’s 37 plays have generated many adaptations or parodies over the years (a summary list follows at the end of this review) but few are so witty or musical as this one. It was written by two brothers, Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick, who enlisted John O’Farrell to help write the book to their music and lyrics.
In brief summary, during the Renaissance, William Shakespeare was what we might call a rock star, overshadowing playwright brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom (Nick obviously from the character in A Midsummer Night’s Dream). They enlist a soothsayer who says they can beat Shakespeare by creating a new form of theatre – the musical. They are aided in this endeavor by groups of Puritans (Cromwell, not mentioned by name in this play, had banned theatre for 18 years until restored by King Charles II).
Special congrats to director Anisa Cameron for handling such a large cast so well and overcoming the pandemic delay in realizing this show.
The song list numbers 20 of which one is an overture and three are reprises, so 16 titles in all, a common number for many musicals. The titles give a feel for the topics covered…
Welcome to the Renaissance
God, I Hate Shakespeare
The Black Death
Bottom’s Gonna Be On Top
To Thine Own Self Be True
Welcome to America
The cast consists of 20 roles, three understudies, and a female ensemble of 14. The lead roles were all well cast being:
Nick Bottom – Joseph Salvatore Vitale
Nigel Bottom – Mickey Samra
Shakespeare – Theodore Vlachos
Soothsayer – John Kovac
Portia – Megan Magisano
Shylock – Nadine Steiner
Francis Bacon – Shaun Nishmas
Bea – Alisha Ruiss
Lady Clapham – Andrea Shuster
Special congrats to director Anisa Cameron for handling such a large cast so well and overcoming the pandemic delay in realizing this show. Special credit, too, to the excellent band led by Nick Burgess (keyboard) with Parker Bert (drums), Mike De Masi (bass), Simon Legault (guitar), Frederic Bourgeault (trumpet), Margaret Donovan (trombone) and Jeremy Sandfelder (reeds).
A few random notes – The role of the soothsayer, Thomas Nostradamus (nephew of the famous futurist) was split on different dates between Mr. Kovak and Côte St-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, who has long been supportive of theatre in that suburb. The soothsayer, besides predicting the emerging musical theatre in which “an actor is saying his lines and out of nowhere, he starts singing” also, when asked which of Shakespeare’s plays will be considered his greatest, struggles to enunciate Omelet and later rationalizes that “I was this close”, accounting for one of the songs being Its Eggs.
‘This play also includes a character as Francis Bacon, the real-life famous philosopher and statesman. The reason, I suppose, is that out of the 80 persons who have been proposed as the real secret writers of Shakespeare’s 37 plays, he was the first.’
Speaking of the songs, The Black Death refers to a plague during Shakespeare’s prime years (not good for audiences).
This play also includes a character as Francis Bacon, the real-life famous philosopher and statesman. The reason, I suppose, is that out of the 80 persons who have been proposed as the real secret writers of Shakespeare’s 37 plays, he was the first.
No secret here about the sixteen members of the production team, foremost the choreographer, Valerie Rochette, handling such a large cast. The listed producers are Mayor Brownstein, Andree Shuster and Mitch Kujavsky.
Oh yes, as promised above a list of shows inspired by Shakespeare’s plays:
West Side Story – Romeo and Juliet
All Shook Up – Twelfth Night
Kiss Me Kate – Taming of the Shrew
Rockabye Hamlet – Hamlet
Shakespeare in Love (film) – Two Gentlemen of Verona
The Boys From Syracuse – Comedy of Errors
The Donkey Show – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Bomb-Ity Of Errors – Comedy of Errors
Play On – Twelfth Night
Lion King – Hamlet
Return to the Forbidden Planet – The Tempest
Shylock – Merchant of Venice
Illyria – Twelfth Night
Something Rotten played at the Wager High School auditorium until June 11.
Images: Ian Cameron
Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been WestmountMag.ca’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated websites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner, and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.