Rebekah Hedeen, Features Editor & Isabella Hudziak, Special Assignments Reporter
The pandemic has created many difficulties for theaters around the world by restricting in-person shows, ticket costs and rehearsal spaces. At Utica College, the theater department has made the most of every opportunity allowing its first in-person audience to view the musical, “Something Rotten.”
“My favorite thing has been the cast’s grit and determination to get things done in a safe and efficient manner,” Musical Director Jason Francey commended the cast for their ability to compromise for a COVID-19 safe performance.
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Among the challenges and stresses that live theatre naturally brings, the pandemic added a whole new layer that Francey, along with the entire theater department, had to work around. A recorded version of the technical rehearsal was the theater’s original and current plan, however, a small audience was permitted to view the live performance on April 1, 2 and 3.
For junior Derek Corsner, who portrays Nostradamus, the best part of the show were the references. Several scenes involving the future-seeing Nostradamus took tunes, lines and motifs from famous musicals such as “Rent” and “Les Miserables.”
“If you’re in the know and a musical fan, it will make the references so much funnier,” said Corsner. “It’s still funny without it, but the references make it better.”
Both Francey and Cailee Blackington, a first-year playing Portia in the show, picked “We See The Light” as a favorite song. The song occurs during Act II of the musical and is headed by Blackington and Kyle Van Winkler as Portia, and Nigel Bottom respectively. For Francey, it was the 70s influence, message of acceptance and dance-ability that pushed the song to his favorite. Blackington echoed his opinion.
“It’s such a bop,” Blackington said. “You can dance to it. There’s also some foreshadowing of the character’s futures.”
The lighting for the show, designed by Michael Diederich, was effective in setting the mood. Cool tones were used for emotionally charged scenes between romantic pairs while warmer lights contributed to dance numbers. Whenever the character Shakespeare was mentioned, strobe lights would accompany the chorus in a way that was engaging to the audience.
There had to be liberties taken with costuming to accommodate COVID-19 precautions. Each character was given a clear rectangular mask that was brown on the bottom representing facial hair for male characters. For female characters, they wore masks with neutral tones. While this was necessary for safety, it caused uneven muffling of the actors. In addition, microphones were not used in this performance, and projection volume differed for each character.
One of the highlights of the show was the choreography directed by Sophia Hartnett. “Something Rotten” is filled with intricate dance numbers that require actors to be nimble on their feet. The ensemble flowed seamlessly together in dances that required tap-dancing and uniformity. Throughout the many rehearsals leading up to the performance, there were days slotted entirely for dance rehearsal and it showed through in the final production.
The set design for the performance was very minimal but effective. There were two moving pieces on either side of the stage to represent tavern and household scenes. During blackouts, the cast would help set the next scene up in a way that was obvious but overall helped the musical work without a traditional crew to move set pieces.
The performance of “Something Rotten” relied heavily on character interactions. Despite social distancing and large masks, the chemistry between the romantic leads was believable and inviting. The audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy the performance, allowing the actors to find their place in the theater once again.
Throughout the musical, aside from many comedic references, the cast truly allowed their personalities to show through their characters. The photo above represents a musical number called “Omelette” where an actress is dressed up as an egg for an “egg-cellent” depiction of the energy found within the show.
Several cast members were required to adopt multiple roles during the performance. The costume changes were effective in distinguishing between the different roles, which included Jessilyn Perreira, a first-year student, acting as Peter Quince and the Grim Reaper. The transitions were seamless and bulked the amount of ensemble on stage for each scene.
“Something Rotten” will air online between April 22 and 25. Tickets can be purchased from ShowTix4U. The price for General Admission is $25 for an individual ticket and $40 for household streaming. Make sure to tune in and support the Utica College Theater Department.