Filichia Features: Something Certainly Terrific and Not All Rotten!

Filichia Features: Something Certainly Terrific and Not All Rotten!

Really, it’s one of Broadway’s funniest-ever musicals.

This was reiterated last week when the company known as iTheatrics did what it does so well each summer. Director of Education Marty Johnson once again guided sixth-to-ninth-graders into a new Jr. show.

This time it was Something Rotten, JR.

The 55-minute reduction of the long-running 2014-2015 Tony-nominated musical was a hit all over again. How the audience adored learning about Nick and Nigel Bottom, fictitious 16th century brothers who have the misfortune of writing for the stage when Shakespeare is the rage.

Such pressure sends desperate Nick to Nostradamus. He’s hoping the seer will be able to predict what will be The Next Big Thing in theater.

Alas, this isn’t the famed Nostradamus; he’s Thomas Nostradamus, a distant relative whose vision is hazier. All he knows is that that the future will bring this atypical theatrical animal called … the musical.

iTheatrics changed him to Nostradamus’ niece Nancy, and the actress wound up stealing the show in a role tailor-made for such thefts. But 38 other kids backed her up and explained exactly what “A Musical” would be: songs and dances because, as Nostradamus says, they’re “entertaining!”

(Choreographer Shay Rodgers certainly made it so.)

I first saw Something Rotten! on Oct. 9, 2014, after I was invited to a workshop. Producers often ask us longtime Broadway observers to such events to gauge our enthusiasm -- or lack of it.

I didn’t know songwriters Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick; the latter co-wrote the book with John O’Farrell, a name new to me, too.

As always, production assistants greet workshop attendees with “You’re gonna love it!”

And then the show stinks.

Not Something Rotten! The assistant would have been more accurate to tell me “You’re gonna adore it!”

That was especially true of “A Musical” which includes references to Seussical and Les Miserables as well as snippets from Annie, The Music Man, Rent and about a dozen other hits. When everyone sang “What could be more amazing than a musical?” I thought “Here, here!”

Or should I spell it “Hear, hear!”?

When Something Rotten! reached Broadway, I attended four times. And each and every time “A Musical” got the best type of applause a production number can get: it started, built – and of course eventually abated … until the attendees felt that they hadn’t done justice to what they’d seen and heard. Thus they applauded more strongly and louder than they had initially. This is one of the Top Ten production numbers I’ve seen in six decades of seeing 80%-90% of Broadway musicals.

Although Something Rotten, JR. cut more than an hour, it retained all the clever characterizations. Because Shakespeare was the equivalent of today’s rock star, the show treats him as such. He’s on an outdoor stage surrounded by dozens of fervent admirers. Four pick him up, hoist him high over their shoulders and bring him into the crowd so lucky fans can get the thrill of being this close.

All the plot complications are here. Puritan leader Brother Jeremiah wants to close down the theaters; he feels that they dispense filth. So wouldn’t you know that his daughter Portia and Nick’s brother Nigel fall in love? If the expressions on their faces didn’t clue us in to their immediate attraction, the single high-pitched plink of a piano key would.

The show also has one of the wisest lines of recent years. Nick’s wife Bea offers to go to work which he forbids; that would inform the world that he’s failing. Bea nevertheless gets a job, because “I knew you needed help when you told me ‘I don’t need any help.’”

Just like a man!

And then there’s Shylock, who’s ready to put up the pounds and pence to mount a play as long as he can be a part of the production. “The theater?!” he says. “I love it! I love it! I love it!” Which of us can’t identify with that?

As of now, Something Rotten, JR. is still in development and won’t be available for some time. That said, consider doing the entire musical with your sixth-to-ninth graders (and beyond). The superb way these kids handled it showed they could have done all of it. Here’s betting yours can, too.

Teachers who’d attended loved that a musical can get kids to know about Shakespeare, John Webster and Francis Bacon. Getting everyone to know Something Rotten! will mean plenty of pleasure in most everyone’s life.

You may e-mail Peter at Check out his weekly column each Monday at and Tuesday at He can be heard most weeks of the year on