ALBANY — With this season being their 35th anniversary, Playhouse Stage Company is pulling out all the stops. To kick things off, they will be presenting Wayne Kirkpatrick’s “Something Rotten” at Park Playhouse in Washington Park.
“Something Rotten” follows the trials and tribulations of Nick and Nigel Bottom, who are stuck in the shadow of their fellow contemporary playwright, William Shakespeare. According to Director Michael LoPorto, the brothers invent a new musical as a way to best Shakespeare at his own game. Hilarity inevitably ensues.
The musical pokes fun at many shows Playhouse Stage Company has put on in the past, according to Producing Artistic Director Owen Smith.
“When you’re celebrating the anniversary of a theater, what better way to do that than with something that has just tons of theatrical references,” he said.
“One of the best parts about getting to work with Stage Company is the variety of shows that we do,” LoPorto said. “I think ‘Something Rotten’ references almost every show we’ve done in some place.”
LoPorto added that “Something Rotten” reminds him a lot of the musical “Spamalot,” which he directed 10 years ago for the company’s 25th anniversary.
“This is very much in the same sort of wacky, satirical world,” he said.
Although casting for the show was done in December and January, rehearsals began only a few weeks before opening night.
“The nice thing about having a really great cast is they can move quickly,” Smith said.
Cast member Marc Christopher, who is playing Nostradamus, agreed, adding that he was amazed by the ensemble’s work in particular.
“This is the first time I’ve experienced a humongous ensemble in a long time, and they are incredible,” he said. “The entire cast is stacked with a lot of Park Playhouse veterans and just wonderful leads.”
Christopher described his role playing Nostradamus as one that he feels very comfortable in.
“It’s basically me, but exaggerated,” he said.
When it came to coaching his cast members, LoPorto said that he initially challenged each to look at their character’s relationship to honesty.
“That’s a plot point in this show — the discovery of how important it is to be honest and to be truthful,” he said, explaining that the cast has identified honesty as a controlling theme behind the play.
According to Smith, “Something Rotten” is the biggest show Playhouse Stage Company has put on in at least five years. The cast includes 24 members, with a 13-person band and a crew of about 15. There are also lots of scenes and set changes within the show itself, which means that the design team has a lot on their hands.
“Every year, we start with an empty parking lot in Albany and we create a whole theater space there,” Smith said. “The old phrase ‘it takes a village’ applies readily to working on these shows in Washington Park.”
Although building an entire theater from scratch may take some effort, doing so allows Playhouse Stage Company to keep their shows in Washington Park accessible.
“For 35 years, we’ve kept the lawn seating on the hill completely free,” Smith said. “And that is a challenge to maintain that, but it’s worth it because it really makes sure that everyone can access the show.”
Smith, LoPorto and Christopher are all eager to see how audiences respond to the show’s many jokes and theatrical references.
“The jokes are just so well-written. They land just by reading them,” Christopher said.
“When the audience is really tuned into the show and it’s quiet and then you hit a punchline and the whole place erupts in laughter, that’s a really great feeling,” Smith said. “It’s a feeling that reminds us that we all have way more in common with each other than what divides us.”
LoPorto added that he is particularly excited to return for the production’s closing weekend.
“It’s just a joy to watch where it’s gone, how it’s grown since I’ve been gone,” he said. “I get to see the show in its new form.”
“Something Rotten” will run from June 29 to July 22, Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8pm. While free lawn seating is available on a first-come, first served basis, reserved seats may be purchased online, or by calling the box office at (518) 434-0776.
To round out their 35th season, Playhouse Stage Company will be presenting “The Secret Garden” from Aug. 3-19 at Park Playhouse, followed by “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” from Aug. 23-26 at Cohoes Music Hall. The company will announce its 36th season in September.
“It’s a jam-packed summer for us always,” Smith said. “This year’s no exception.”