Audiences can return to the Renaissance and experience Shakespearean comedy with a modern twist as the Wabash Theater Department opens its fall season with the first musical to hit the Ball Theater stage in nearly a decade.
“Something Rotten!” opens Wednesday and runs through Saturday, with performances at 8 p.m. each evening.
Tickets are free and can be reserved through the Fine Arts Center Box Office.
Written by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell, “Something Rotten!” is set in the 1590s and follows brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom as they desperately attempt to write a hit play but are stuck in the shadow of that Renaissance rock star known as The Bard. When a local soothsayer foretells that the future of theater involves singing, dancing, and acting at the same time, the duo set out to write the world’s very first musical.
Organizing one of the biggest productions in the College’s history — which involved securing support and funding, enlisting a choreographer and vocal director, uniting an age-range of cast members, an orchestra, and stage crew, and much, much more — was a complex but exciting endeavor for Director and Theater Professor Michael Abbott.
“It’s been a journey, easily one of the hardest things I’ve done,” said Abbott, who started working on bringing the satirical Broadway tale to campus nearly nine months ago.
“There’s nothing like a musical to make all the things that we have available to create theatre all in play,” he explained. “In the beginning, I tried to imagine all those things working at once, and it honestly seemed impossible. But after weeks of rehearsal and the crew understanding all the pieces that have to go into it, we have created something we’re proud of.”
“Something Rotten!” will be the first musical production at Wabash since 2014 when the theater department presented Tony Award-winning “Guys and Dolls.” Abbott said it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Kathleen Hickey, a dance lecturer from Purdue University, and Colleen Pingel, a private voice teacher at Wabash.
“I am so thankful for Kat and Colleen, and all the time and effort they have put in to make us better,” Abbott said. “It’s been amazing to watch them push actors outside of their comfort zone, especially those who aren’t dancers or who haven’t performed in a musical before. … The audience is going to be surprised to hear a level of singing and to watch a level of choreography, musicianship, and professionalism they’ve never seen here before.”
The cast includes Logan Weilbaker ’25 as Nick Bottom; Luke Fincher ’24 as Nigel Bottom; Tommy Oppman ’25 as Shakespeare; Alex Schmidt ’27 as Nostradamus; Julia Phipps (academic administrative coordinator to the Fine Arts Center) as Bea; Jim Cherry (associate professor of theater) as Brother Jeremiah; Elizabeth Hutson (Crawfordsville native) as Portia; Thomas Bowling (Crawfordsville High School) as Minstrel; Hayden Kammer ’24 as Lord Clapham and Max Hsu (language intern at Wabash) as Shylock. The male ensemble includes Bowling, Nathan Felix ’24, Alex Kindig ’26, Bennett Strain ’26, and Carl Suba ’25. The female ensemble includes Crawfordsville High School students Zoe Abbott, Paige Johnson, Elizabeth Turner, Katherine Novak, and Lisa Miellet (language intern at Wabash).
The production includes vocal director Colleen Pingel, choreography director Kathleen Hickey, orchestra conductor Scott Pazera, scenic and tech designer David Vogel, lighting designer Scott Olinger, costume designer Andrea Bear, and accompanist Cheryl Everett.
Drew Johannes ’23, a Wabash theater veteran actor who is working for the first time on the other side of production as the stage manager, admitted were many times he felt envious of the actors.
“Some nights when actors weren’t there and I got the opportunity to step in and read their parts, I really gave it my all,” Johannes, who will be completing his coursework in December, said with a chuckle. “It’s such a fun show. I am bummed I can’t be on stage as an actor, but I am even more happy to be able to learn everything that I have as stage manager. I’m thankful that Abbott trusted me to help put on a show this big with so many moving pieces.”
Johannes said the cast of “Something Rotten!” became a tight-knit family that encouraged and learned from one another over the last three months of rehearsals.
He said that contagiously enthusiastic culture will be on full display opening night.
“Audience members can expect lots of laughs and energy,” Johannes said. “They’ll experience happy moments, sad moments, sexy moments—this musical has everything!”
Weilbaker echoed Johannes and said the musical will have something for everyone to enjoy.
“I think it’s a great show for Wabash because it’s so accessible,” Weilbaker said. “The first lines that I say in the play are, ‘Oh noble kinsmen that royal blood and love do bind. Seek now thy own succor …’ and then ‘Who talks like this? Why can’t we just write like we speak?’ and I think everyone, especially people who aren’t theater-goers, will relate to that. It’s also a meta, a musical about making a musical, packed with fun references to other musicals that theater-goers will love.
“There’s no way you come to this show and don’t walk away with a smile on your face.”