Welcome to the Renaissance!
From February 16 to 18, audiences were invited to step back in time in the Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts, DuBois Theatre with the Blair Academy Players’ musical production of Something Rotten!
The New York Post called Something Rotten! “a deliriously entertaining musical comedy that brings down the house,” and the Center Theatre Group said, “With its heart on its ruffled sleeve and sequins in its soul, Something Rotten! is an uproarious dose of pure Broadway fun and an irresistible ode to musicals—those dazzling creations that entertain us, inspire us and remind us that everything’s better with an exclamation point!”
“It’s the ‘Year of the Bard,’” veteran theatre teacher and director Craig Evans explained. “The three plays this year work together so nicely with the hilarious theme, ‘Shakespeare has writer’s block!’” The Blair Academy Players commenced with Shakespeare in Love in the fall, and after this winter’s musical, an outdoor production of Love’s Labour’s Lost will conclude Blair’s 175th year in the spring. “The musical was our first choice,” Mr. Evans explained. “It drove the theme for the rest of the productions.”
Set in the 1590s, Something Rotten! is the story of two brothers, Nick (David Sacks ’23) and Nigel (Chris Couri ’24) Bottom, attempting to make a splash in theatre behind the shadow of the famous playwright, William Shakespeare (Michael Diaco ’23). Through trials and tribulations—and a whole lot of singing and tap-dancing—the brothers create the world’s first musical. The musical first premiered on Broadway in 2015, with music and lyrics by brothers Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick and a book by John O'Farrell and Karey Kirkpatrick.
“No one is a tap dancer,” Ava Satasi ’23, who played Portia, said, laughing. “We all had to learn from scratch.”
Acting Dean of Students and choreographer Andee Ryerson was up to the challenge. "One of my favorite parts about choreographing the musical is taking kids that are convinced they ‘can't dance’ and helping them feel confident dancing on stage,” she said. As a “tap-heavy show,” Mrs. Ryerson was excited for the three senior tap solo performances by David, Michael and Seymour Thomas ’23 to showcase how much effort they put into their roles.
“The dancing is bonkers,” Seymour, who played Nostradamus, said. Along with fellow Senior Class Council member Michael, the duo joined the Players for the first time this year to step out of their comfort zones and try something new.
“It’s been fun seeing people jump into new roles,” Hanna Wilke ’23, who played Bea, noted. “The cast is close and working really well together.”
Ava agreed, adding, “It’s a funny show, and we’ve had a lot of fun creating it and going all-in with the comedy.”
The musical is an all-hands-on-deck production, with time carved out during rehearsals each week for vocal lessons with Director of Vocal Music Ryan Manni, choreography with Mrs. Ryerson and blocking scenes with Mr. Evans and English teacher Kaye Evans, all while set design and buildings rise around them thanks to Technical Director Mike Ryerson. The accompanying pit orchestra, led by Director of Instrumental Music Jennifer Pagotto, includes veteran-Broadway and career musicians, as well as Tony Ni ’25 on trombone. The cast hopes that at the end of the night, the audience will see the effort they put into the show while sharing some laughs along the way.
“I hope everyone can see we put a little bit of ourselves into the characters to make it our own,” David said.