For the next three days, Soldotna High School’s Theater and Music Department will be making fun of Shakespeare, musicals and theater with “Something Rotten,” a musical comedy.
The show will run Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m., with tickets available at the door.
“Something Rotten,” which originally debuted on Broadway in 2015, follows two down-on-their-luck Renaissance-era playwrights — brothers Nicholas and Nigel Bottom — who struggle to produce a successful play because their main competition is William Shakespeare.
SoHi Senior Josiah Burton said many people tend to back away when they hear Shakespeare; they say it’s hard to understand or boring.
“This takes a very new perspective on that. It takes Shakespeare and makes fun of it.”
In the show, Shakespeare is a haughty “rock-god” style figure, Burton said. For those with some experience or understanding of plays or musicals, there will be a lot of enjoyment to be had in the way the show makes fun of it all.
Director Sara Erfurth said “Something Rotten” is a fusion of musical theater, comedy and Shakespeare. Fun and packed with literary references and musical jokes, the show channels the way Shakespeare’s plays have the ability to reach people in different ways, Erfurth said.
Erfurth said though the department has produced musicals before, this is the first time they’ve put on a musical comedy.
“This is kind of a fun adventure for us,” she said. “This is one of those shows where I would never dare to put it on if I didn’t think we had the talent to pull it off, but we do. We have a really talented group of actors who are in this.
Burton portrays Nicholas, the lead, and he described the character as “disgruntled.” He sings a song called “God, I Hate Shakespeare.”
“He can’t get anything out, get anything published because Shakespeare is always one step ahead of him,” Burton said. “So he goes to see a soothsayer and asks him what the next big thing is going to be.”
The character is complex, Burton said, because he loves his wife and brother entirely, but he gets caught in his own agency, something that costs him relationships during the show.
“He insists that it has to be done this way. My way is right, your way is wrong,” he said.
That resonated with his own experience as the oldest of three siblings. Burton described being stubborn to a fault at times.
Burton said he was aware of “Something Rotten” for a few years before SoHi took it on.
“This is my favorite musical of all time,” Burton said. “This is a dream come true.”
Burton described listening to the soundtrack and singing along to every part.
“I knew every harmony, I knew every note, I knew every lyric. When we decided we were gonna do this show I could not be happier.”
To then audition, and receive the lead role, was very special, Burton said.
“My heart was singing with joy when the cast list came out. I was so honored and excited that I was able to play the lead in my favorite musical.”
Burton hasn’t been acting for very long, only since 2019, but his acting career has been “non-stop” since he got his first taste. He said that in the last four years, there’s only been a single month where he wasn’t preparing for a show; he will be appearing as a major character in Kenai Performers’ “Disaster!” early next year.
In the role of everyone’s favorite — or least favorite — playwright is Jerry Nash, who said it’s his first year in theater, a step outside of the comfort zone.
“In the show, William Shakespeare is portrayed as an egotistical, kind of cocky, arrogant, confident guy,” Nash said. “So I’ve had to up my attitude a bit, really embrace that.”
Nash said he was usually an athletics guy, but Burton talked him into trying out.
His inexperience was imperceptible, walking out of an interview and onto the stage just in time for his big entrance during “Welcome to the Renaissance,” the first song in the show, during a rehearsal on Wednesday; leaping up onto a platform and gesturing to adoring fans.
The soothsayer that provides Nicolas Bottom with a glimpse of the future is Thomas Nostradamus, brought to life by Jaylee Webster.
Webster said the character was fun because he’s so high energy.
“He’s always clinging onto Nick,” she said. “He’s always making these little remarks.”
Ashley Dahlman, a senior at SoHi, said “Something Rotten” is her first time in a larger role. She portrays Portia, the lead romantic character who falls in love with Nigel.
Despite acting since the eighth grade, Dahlman said she initially wasn’t sure she could play a romantic lead.
“That just doesn’t seem like me.”
Ultimately, she said it was in the differences between herself and her character that she found the fun.
In addition to the call for romance, Portia is a Puritan with something of a rebellious streak, who is largely very innocent.
“It’s a fun role to play because it’s not anything that relates to me as a person,” Dahlman said. “I get to play somebody completely different.”
Speaking of the whole production, Webster said the show was so unique and varied that folks should be able to find something somewhere in it to latch on to.
“There’s an interesting plot you can follow along with, do you hate Shakespeare, do you love heartwarming comedy, kicklines,” she said. “There’s just so much about it that’s lovable.”
Dahlman said that, to her knowledge, there’s never been a show like “Something Rotten” produced in the community.
“I haven’t lived here my whole life, but it’s very different.”
“Any audience member can come in, and they will, definitely I feel, leave feeling like they saw something they enjoyed,” Burton said.
Drama at SoHi is going through a resurgence right now, Erfurth said.
“With COVID … we weren’t able to do anything,” she said. “Last year, ‘Annie’ was kind of our big resurgence. We’re back, we’re gonna do this for real. … I think that’s kind of helped people feel energized about the potential.”
The theater department is building something at Soldotna that the community can be proud of, she said.
“Something Rotten” will also feature music by a live orchestra in the auditorium pit, led by Band Director Mark Jurek. He said orchestra features some students but also several performers sourced from the community.
More information about “Something Rotten” can be found at Soldotna High School on Facebook.