Something Rotten! is coming to Bismarck! Conceived by the Kirkpatrick brothers in the 1990s and ripened in development until its Broadway premiere in 2015, the musical comedy tells the story of theatricians Nick and Nigel Bottom and their quest to get a leg up on some obscure literary figure named William Shakespeare. Something Rotten! plays with classical themes and pays homage to beloved productions like Les Misérables (a timeless epic about two innkeepers on a quest to recover their adopted daughter after she’d been absconded with by an ex-convict) and West Side Story (which teaches audiences that jazz tap provides a solid foundation for knife fighting techniques), but also reinvigorates them with modern twists and humor. The original production was nominated for ten Tony Awards, more than enough to merit its ongoing national tour.
I got to speak with Matthew Baker, who plays the part of Shakespeare himself. I was instantly struck by Matthew’s refined and pleasant accent, which I attributed to the Bayonne region of New Jersey. “You’re not far off,” said Matthew. “I’m actually from southeastern England, in the county of Kent.”
“I grew up with a little bit of everything — dance, singing, acting — before I attended Bird College in London. There I was given the freedom to be whatever kind of performer I wanted to. I wanted to be one who travels, so after graduation I took an opportunity with Royal Caribbean. I got to play many roles at sea, including Double J. in Saturday Night Fever, and met my wife there as well. I went on to play the lead in Saturday Night Fever’s national tour, and I’m hoping to work my way up to Broadway in the end. My wife and I will have to figure out a time to start a family in the midst of all this.
“I especially enjoy playing to American audiences. The British, in a sense, and without generalizing, tend to be a little more reserved. It makes sense for them to be that way if you’ve ever experienced their weather. Americans, on the other hand, are freer to express their appreciation for things in public — that means more standing ovations over here, which actors tend to like.
“It’s interesting how Shakespeare is portrayed in Something Rotten! Back in the Renaissance era, people didn’t have the concept of fame like we do today. It was long before Instagram, and to this day we have only two portraits of Shakespeare that are definitively accepted as genuine. That’s why seeing him get the red carpet treatment that he does is just one of the play’s many clever anachronisms that make it so funny.
“Bringing a show like Something Rotten! to places where people generally can’t get to Broadway is a great feeling. The comedy in this show is resonant for everyone, and deserves to be enjoyed by all. There’s no political awareness about it, it’s simply a wonderful show with great writing that feels fresh every time we perform it. Everyone is going to walk out of the theater in Bismarck smiling — but I am interested to see how the show will be received in South Korea, where we’re going to finish its run later this year.”
Something Rotten! will play at the Bismarck Event Center on April 30th at 7:30pm. Tickets are currently on sale and start at $42.00. You may purchase them at the box office, by visiting etix.com, or by calling (800) 514-3849. Discounts are available for subscribers and groups of ten or more by calling (701) 355-1384.
By David Scheller