CSA’s ‘Something Rotten’ a mashup of musical fun

CSA’s ‘Something Rotten’ a mashup of musical fun

“It was one of the first shows I ever discovered when I got into theater,” says Asa Stevens of the fast-paced, demanding musical “Something Rotten.” “I remember laughing hysterically at some of the lyrics, and being incredibly impressed by the heartwarming story.”

Of course, that meant Stevens wanted to be in the Community School of the Arts production — and he is, cast as the lead, Nick Bottom, a 16th century playwright whose dream is to compete with William Shakespeare.

“The hardest part of this show for me by far has been the depth of the character I’m having to play,” says Stevens, 18, who played Jesus in the CSA production of “Godspell” last summer. “His passionate and controlling progression of madness slowly descends into chaos as he chases his goals and starts to pull away from his family.”

But along the way, Stevens says, Nick “learns to listen to the people who care about him, letting others help in times of need, and ultimately following his heart. He is humbled by the entire situation that he creates for himself.”

Stevens might not be quite so humble about the production.

“I hope the audiences stand up after the show in approval — then proceed to gush about its hilarity, the killer ensemble, spectacular dance numbers, and the quality young talent we have locally,” he says.

But director Cody Walls, who is also director of theater at CSA, thinks Stevens makes a good point.

“Typically we have about 10 weeks of rehearsal because we audition the kids before Christmas,” he says. “We did not have that luxury this year. With their school conflicts, other shows, and the State Thespian Festival, we have pulled it together with five weeks of rehearsal!”

And, he adds, not only does the cast include 35 students between the ages of 12 and 18, they’re doing the full version of the show, not the junior version.

“With the junior version, the adult humor is slimmed down along with the Shakespearean language and the musical numbers,” Walls says. “This show runs about 2.5 hours with intermission. I will say, though, that our licensing company sends an approved list of changes to make it more appropriate for kids without losing the essence of these characters and the story.”

The premise of the musical, created in 2015 by Grammy Award-winning songwriter Wayne Kirkpatrick and screenwriters Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell, is that two brothers — Nick and Nigel Bottom — are looking for a way to best the Renaissance rock star known as “the Bard” by writing an epic hit play. Frustrated and desperate, Nick reaches out to a soothsayer, Thomas Nostradamus, who tells him the next big thing in theater is a musical.

“There is an entire song in Act I that is 10 minutes long and references about 20 different shows,” Walls enthuses. “I am a total musical theater nerd. Watching them learn about these different styles and iconic musicals has been quite the treat.

“We have [also] taken a lot of time to dive into the English Renaissance with the students and explore the inventions of the period, the religious movements, and how Shakespeare’s work of the time paved the ground for theater as we know it today,” he adds.

Walls credits choreographer Dylan Blackwood and music director Gini Law, along with stage manager Brieana McAfee, for the show successfully coming together in such a short time.

“Learning the choreography has been harder than expected,” admits 18-year-old Hadley Gilmore, who plays Nick’s wife Bea. “It’s been a blast, but it’s definitely tough because it’s different. The scenes have been much more fun than I expected. I normally enjoy the songs a lot, but the scene work in this show is incredible.”

“At its core, ‘Something Rotten’ is a celebration of the transformative power of laughter and the unyielding human spirit,” says Walls. “In addition, the show is just fun!”



Community School of the Arts:

‘Something Rotten’

WHEN — 7 p.m. March 14-16 & 2 p.m. March 16-17

WHERE — King Opera House in Van Buren

COST — $7 for preview night March 14; all other shows $18-$20

INFO — csafortsmith.org/something-rotten-tickets or call 434-2020

Categories: Theater