REVIEW: "Something Rotten!"— Academy for the Performing Arts

Updated: May 18, 2021

It’s Hard to be Bard!

Put your hands together for the one, the only ... William Shakespeare!? He struts on stage in tight leather pants, and his fans go wild. He's the Mick Jagger of the Elizabethan age, a suave glam-rocker who improvises great lines like "If music be the food of love, play on," all casually shot from the hip.

As the "man who put the 'I am' in iambic pentameter," Brennan Eckberg has the stage presence and camp to put over his self-adoring Bard to the nth degree, giving a slight jolt of anarchy to the show, while evoking stars like Kurt Cobain or David Bowie with that gritty, mixed rock vibrato.

Grammy Award-winning songwriter Wayne Kirkpatrick, along with screenwriters Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell have teamed up to give us a laugh-a-minute, snort-milk-funny evening that skewers Shakespeare while referencing nearly every hit Broadway musical in recent memory.

“We were big history buffs,” says Karey Kirkpatrick. ”It just started, wouldn’t it be funny if Shakespeare’s London were a lot like what Broadway was in the ‘30s? If the writers had agents, and the Tin Pan Alley scene. What would it be like to be writing in the shadow of William Shakespeare, after "Romeo and Juliet" just opened?”

Hailed as the funniest musical comedy in over 400 years, this 2015 parody spring musical now seems to be among the first live productions back on stage in this section of the country, and here presented by Huntington Beach Academy for the Performing Arts in the HBUHSD Historic Auditorium, premiering May 14th - 16th, and May 20th - 23rd, Thursday/Friday/Saturday evenings at 7pm and Saturday/Sunday matinees at 2pm. Still fully masked (although the leads wear clear, indiscernible “shield” masks), the cast performed last evening to a partially filled auditorium, around ninety patrons, with the theatre still under the gun from healthcare guidance agencies. But you couldn’t tell from the excitement and applause in the seats.

Complete with a 16-member pit orchestra, the show is conducted by 27-year APA veteran, Gregg Gilboe, directed and musically directed by the acclaimed, award-winning Tim Nelson, and choreographed with polish and style by APA Artistic Director Diane Makas and Jennifer Simpson-Matthews.

Here’s the setup: The year is 1595 and the English Renaissance is in full flower in Tudor London. Isaac Newton will soon discover gravity; King Henry IV of France declares war on Spain and Shakespeare’s play, “Romeo and Juliet” has just opened to a rousing success. In a clever opening number, “Welcome to the Renaissance,” we’re introduced to some of the marvels of this wondrous age. Cue Francis Bacon, clutching a chicken to let us know that he’s found a way to freeze meat. And here comes Sir Walter Raleigh, aristocratic nose in the air and puffing on a pipe filled with tobacco, the marvelous substance he brought back from his travels to the new world. And don’t even get these cheerleaders started on all the brilliant playwrights of the age, like Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Dekker and John Middleton.

Among this rivalry are writers Nick Bottom and his brother Nigel, struggling playwrights, perpetually stuck at second-tier while Shakespeare plays to packed houses. No one can compete with Will Shakespeare, local rock-star writer, who makes the ladies swoon and the men green with envy. Certainly not our resolute brothers (Jack Borenstein as the charming rogue, Nick, and Max Hardy as an endearing innocent Nigel), who can’t seem to catch a break.

Even their last name is Bottom, and, to any writer, fodder for an inexhaustible source of wo