After last year’s performance of “Urinetown” got cancelled two weeks before its opening night, Timber Creek Regional High School’s Musical Director Carolyn Hand decided the spring musical for 2021 would be one that could be performed whether COVID regulations were lifted or not.
The result? Timber Creek will present “Something Rotten” virtually on June 3 through 5 at 7 p.m. Though it will only be online June 3, there will be a screening of the musical in the Timber Creek parking lot on June 4 and 5. Hand has cleverly dubbed these shows “Shakespeare in the parking lot.”
“Something Rotten” is about the Bottom brothers, who compete against William Shakespeare in the theater world in 1595. When the older brother pays a visit to Nostradamus to find out how he can get ahead, he learns musicals are the next big thing. After pushing further, he learns Shakespeare’s most famous play will have something to do with “omelettes,” “ham” and “Danish.” He determines that breakfast must be the next big trend, and decides to produce a breakfast-themed musical.
Hand described “Something Rotten” as “If Mel Brooks and Monty Python made a musical together,” while Jared McCallion, a senior who plays Nick Bottom, said “‘Something Rotten’ is a lighthearted show with a lot of references to other productions that people who are even remotely familiar with Broadway will be able to appreciate.”
Hand said while there was talk of doing “Urinetown” again, she decided against it. There were many seniors involved last year who would not be able to participate again this year, and it felt wrong to recast them after they had put so much into that show.
While Hand usually has about 30 students perform, this year there are only 18 after students pulled out due to a fear of COVID and its possible impact on performances. Rehearsals and dance lessons initially took place over Zoom when they began in December, but by the following month, rehearsals were again in person.
“It was a lot better when we got together in person, because we got to ask for help and get a hands-on feel for it,” explained Julia Nelson, a junior playing the minstrel, among other roles.
“There was a point in time when a few people got the virus or had to quarantine just for being in contact,” she added. “And we had to go back to that for a few practices. But other than that, we were in person.”
Because the production was recorded, it was filmed more like a movie than a musical. Matt Kuhlen, the audio visual technician at Timber Creek, would shoot all of the scenes for one set at a time before moving onto the next one.
“The nice thing about that is that you could set the set up exactly the way you wanted it in the light, because there’s no rushing,” Hand explained. “We filmed using several different cameras, so we got some different shots.”
Nelson added that although they did do a cold reading and at times ran through the whole play, the performers haven’t seen the play entirely put together.
“We did have times when we tried to run through [the whole play], but … When we see the play, the first time, that will be the first time that we see everything and the sets in order.”
Though the production process was different than it has been in most years, it was a welcome experience to participate in theater again.
“I love Something Rotten,” said Ryan Lynd. “The past year has been very depressing due to the global pandemic, and ‘Something Rotten’ provided an escape to the world with so many hilarious moments, songs, and characters to enjoy.”
Even so, the fact that the show was produced during a pandemic was not forgotten.
“This year’s biggest challenge was staying motivated, even without having an audience,” McCallion reflected. “So much of the enjoyment comes from the applause, and we reciprocate the energy that the crowd gives us. Not having that this year was hard.”
Although there will be no live performance, Hand hopes that the live screening in the parking lot will bring the community together. The usual audience, as well as the actors and crew members, will be able to watch the show together.
“I think they’re going to see that even though we had an awful lot of obstacles to overcome, the kids pulled together and they put on a full production,” Hand noted. “A lot of schools didn’t attempt it. There were some schools that did Zoom plays, some schools that didn’t do any plays, and I was like, ‘We’re not doing that again.’”
Tickets are available for purchase at www.showtix4u.com/event-details/53056.