UPDATE 9/7: Due to members of the Toledo Rep testing positive for COVID-19, the opening weekend performances of Something Rotten! on September 10 and 11 have been cancelled. The show will now be performed beginning on September 17 and 18, and again on September 23, 24, 25 and 26.
A Perfect Welcome Back
Director Deb Calabrese is ready to stage a “bucket list” musical here in Toledo, one perfectly suited to our times. The play, the first full-scale production for the Toledo Repertoire Theatre since the pandemic, could provide an evening to make you forget about the last 15 months?
The Rep’s production of Something Rotten!, September 10-26 at the 10th Street Theater, may be just the ticket. The musical comedy, set in 1595, follows Nick and Nigel Bottom’s theatre troupe, which has to compete with a wildly popular contemporary— William Shakespeare. The show opened on Broadway in 2015 and has been nominated for 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
Desperate to write a hit play but stuck in the shadow of “the Bard,” the Bottom brothers learn from a fortune teller that the future of theatre involves singing, dancing and acting, all at the same time. So, they set out to write the world’s first musical, complete with large scale song and dance numbers.
A treat for Toledo
Calabrese and her husband saw Something Rotten! on Broadway five years ago. “It was such a wonderful performance, I promised myself that I would do that show sometime,” she said.
Likewise, Steven Kiss, who plays Nigel Bottom in the Rep’s production, had a similar reaction when he saw the touring production in Detroit. “As soon as they did the opening number, ‘Welcome to the Renaissance,’” I thought, ‘This is something I have to do,’” he said.
Although Jeffery Beam (who plays Nick Bottom) hasn’t seen the play, he’s a self-proclaimed “Shakespeare nerd” who is a fan of Shakespeare’s complete works.
Careful but excited
Director Calabrese is excited to be working with the cast. “We’ve had to be cautious coming out of COVID-19, and we’re taking our rehearsals day by day,” she said. “The cast is enthusiastic about doing this. It’s a popular musical, and we’re excited to bring it here.”
A tap dance teacher since the 1970s, Calabresee is personally blocking and teaching the tap numbers for the production. “Tap is a core in the theater, and my goal is to share my knowledge and love of it with others,” she explained. “Even cast members who haven’t tapped before are picking it up.”
Perfection at the Rep
For Kiss, working with Calabrese is fate: “She directed my last show before the pandemic, and it’s perfect that she’s directing my first show after the pandemic,” he explained, adding, “This performance is almost like a grand opening– for me and the Rep.” Kiss has performed in theatre productions throughout northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan since he was very young, most often at the Croswell Opera House in Adrian. Something Rotten! will be his first Toledo Repertoire appearance. “I’m excited to be playing Nigel, who is lighthearted and has many of the funny lines in the musical.”
It’s ironic that Jeffery Beam performs the song “God, I Hate Shakespeare.” “It is a parody, but at the same time a tribute to Shakespeare,” he explained. “It should be fun for people who love musicals, because there are so many references to musicals throughout the show.” Beam has lived in Toledo since he was 12 when he performed in The King & I at the Westgate Dinner Theatre.
Calabrese anticipated that everyone will have fun at Something Rotten! “We need a little lift after the last one and a half years,” she said. “Laugh and have a great evening!”
8pm, 17-18, 23-25
2:30pm, Sept. 19 and 26
16 Tenth St., 419-243-9277
Purchase tickets at toledorep.org