Something Rotten: A Night At The Theater, Theatre, Whatever

Something Rotten is a hilarious musical about a playwright’s struggle for recognition during the Renaissance theatre scene dominated by William Shakespeare.  But this review isn’t as much about the show as the equally entertaining attempt to watch it from Orch-R, Row H, Seat 14.  Sometimes not seeing a show can be just as fun.

A Great Start to a Great Show

We arrived at the Oriental early enough to enjoy half a glass of wine in the reserved suite service room.  The room was virtually empty, partially due to the imminent start of the show, and more so because the value of which at $40 per ticket is highly questionable.  It would be difficult to drink and eat enough free food to justify the added expense—although many try—but worth it to avoid the Disneyworld-esque lines that form at the bathrooms during intermission.  It’s not possible to put a price on my father-in-laws 70 year old aching bladder.

The lights flickered within a few minutes of our first sips of house chardonnay.  We hurried to the entrance, collected the Something Rotten programs, and shuffled to our seats nearly dead center in Row H.  To my right sat my father-in-law, and to his right, my mother-in-law.  My wife sat with our granddaughter and a niece in a different row.  We hoped placing our preteen granddaughter in proximity to our bright, personable, collegiately successful niece might prove a shining example for a girl struggling with her identity and growing up in an environment neither conducive to nor supportive of higher education—there is nothing like a successful, twenty-something, second cousin, soon-to-be university senior to help inspire possibilities in a girl destined for challenging teenage years.

A Something Rotten Cast

To my left sat Sully a plus-sized, fifty-ish, midwesterner with a loud, histrionic laugh, a love of musical comedies, and a penchant for spilling over into adjacent seats.  His hairy arms dominated the armrest and beyond, jutting from a polo shirt stretched agonizingly across his midsection.  He whooped at every uttered word, his voice booming a warning of hidden threats to passing ships.  Sully was as far from svelte as Trump is from well-read. 

As the show started, Sully became increasingly uncomfortable in what must have been the only undersized chair in the house.  Every minute found him adjusting his position in an attempt to occupy more physical space than available.  He shifted left, forcing his wife to lean accordingly, then shuffled his legs.  His feet telescoped beneath the seat in front of him, only to reappear a few minutes later as his body flowed starboard.  Sully just could not find his perfect sit.

Ahead of me sat Megamind, a man with a head the size of a beachball.  As his head blocked most of the stage, I spent the first fifteen minutes unsure if any of the cast was dressed below the waist.  Each time an actor kneeled, she disappeared entirely from view.  One could easily imagine Megamind walking on the beach, moons circling about the axis of his planet-sized skull as a shadow blanketed all those caught in the lee of his solar eclipse.  He could easily have passed for a visitor from another galaxy—Something Rotten received universally great reviews.

There will no doubt be some who will take umbrage at the description of my theater mates, decrying the problems with body shaming in our post-modern, progressive American society.  It is true that one’s girth or lack thereof is their business—until it spills over into someone else’s seat and encroaches upon their personal space, at which time it grants license to describe said heft accordingly.  Back to the story.

Somethings Rotten in Something Rotten

I’d accepted the performance as is, Megamind’s head blocking most of the set, and Sully amoebacly protruding in and out of my personal space.  The visual components grew less important as the music and lyrics grew increasingly entertaining.  I settled in to enjoy the grandeur that was Something Rotten—until Sully shifted for the last time.

Even the best built furniture has its structural limitations.  Sully nudged his backside toward the armrest I’d not seen since the beginning of the show, leveraging his weight onto his forearms and pushing his legs forward to wedge his posterior deeper into the chair.  As he did, the fastener attaching the seats to the armrest, already under extreme duress, gave way with a loud “pop!”

I frantically reached for the opposite armrest with my right hand, but it was too late.  In an instant Sully and I were both leaning into the broken seats, bodies uncomfortably angled toward each other, faces inches apart, eyes locked in awkward silence.  His wife broke the tension.  “Did you break the chair?” She asked, nonplussed.

Yes, Sully did break the chair.  In fact, not only did he break the chair, he broke both our chairs.  Our two seats, identical in every meaningful way, had become one—the seat backs forming an arch separated by the now vacant armrest as Sully struggled toward his wife and I leaned forward to keep my head from laying across the woman’s lap in the row behind us.

This new position left the line of sight between me and the stage at a steeper angle, putting Megamind’s humongous alien helmet even higher on the horizon.  Now, instead of legless characters, the only thing visible were animated, singing, bodiless heads that disappeared entirely with every bow, bend, and block.  Dancing performers occasionally bounced and sets slid across the stage, but the scene was otherwise a ghostly view of apparitional faces floating stage right.

At first, all seemed lost—Sully and I destined to spend the rest of the show cuddling in the semi-circular love seat he’d created during scene two, and Megamind’s head eclipsing the stage.  Then Sully’s considerate, caring wife offered a suggestion, “Let’s move over one seat.”  How sweet of her. 

Sully’s wife moved to the vacant seat to her left, followed by Sully, who took his wife’s now vacant real-estate.  They looked so comfortable, sitting upright, watching the show, laughing bombastically at each funny quip.  I know this because my current position, a left leaning recline supported by well-developed right side obliques—a little self-recognition never hurts—the new position provided a better view of Sully than the stage obscured by Megamind’s prodigious cabeza.

Musical’s Are About The Music

I spent the rest of the show alternating between views of laughing Sully, and peering around Megamind to catch the occasional glimpse of a backside on stage.  The foot that accidentally tapped the back of my recliner every few minutes reminded me to shift position, and the intermission served as a respite for abs clenched tight as a drug smuggler’s butt cheeks. 

But most of a musical is the in the singing, and neither Sully’s seat modifications nor my view of the dark side of the moon blocked the lyrical dialogue.  In all it was an entertaining evening, on and off stage.  I highly recommend the show—just avoid Orch-R, Row H, Seat 14 at Chicago’s Oriental Theatre.

Aformentioned names were changed to protect the inconsiderate and unaware.  Title image courtesy of the Something Rotten playbill and a drawing I did of the back of a friend—I added the bald spot.


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Unless otherwise noted, I drew or took the photographs in the article—as lame as they may look.  Any resemblance to persons living or dead is probably planned.  Copyright can be found here for my original work.

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