Local nonprofit performance company Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre is ready to debut its first production of 2023 at the Bankhead Theater in Livermore this weekend: "Something Rotten!"
Using elements of modern Broadway and 16th century Shakespeare, the musical satire will be staged the next three weekends to kick off Tri-Valley Rep's 39th season.
"Something Rotten!" brings audiences to the 1590s when two brothers, Nick and Nigel Bottom, attempt to create the first-ever musical. As their journey progresses, scandals and chaos ensue. The two, along with the supporting ensemble of characters, ultimately grapple with opening night and come to understand the importance of being true to oneself.
Originally created by songwriter Wayne Kirkpatrick in 2015, the musical has been praised by critics and received several Tony Award nominations.
"This is a show that highlights and celebrates Broadway and theater in general," said Brian Olkowski, director of the Tri-Valley Rep production.
For many, "Something Rotten!" could offer a return to the theaters after the pandemic. With this in mind, Olkowski hopes audiences will leave the show not only with a love of performance theater, but most importantly with a sense of joy.
"I wanted to bring out that joy and excitement. I wanted to create a place to enjoy yourself and laugh, also with some great storytelling and emotion," he said.
Olkowski has been working sporadically with the theater company since 2008 when he began as an actor. In the years since, he has held various backstage roles including stage managing but has found directing to be more meaningful.
"It's a different mindset," Olkowski said. "When you're performing, you're out there on stage, but when you're watching and directing, you're looking at it closely to figure out how to make it even better."
"I love having a vision and working with the creative staff, the choreographers, the vocal director, the costumers, the sound folks, everybody. It's just amazing watching a group of people who are dedicated to bringing the best show possible," he added.
In terms of a venue choice for "Something Rotten!", Olkowski feels that nothing fits quite like the Bankhead Theater.
"It's amazing to be able to put on art in such a beautiful venue," Olkowski told the Weekly. "The Bankhead comes alive in different ways and it's always so fun and different, the variety of audiences that come through that space."
Cast member Megan Bartlett is taking part in her second Tri-Valley Rep production with "Something Rotten!" She will be portraying Bea, whom she refers to as a "dream character".
"'Something Rotten!' is such a fun show for anyone with any level of love for the theater," Bartlett said. "Every single time I watch the show it's impossible for me not to laugh at something new."
The dedication and communal spirit among cast and crew members is easy to see. Terri McDowell, a resident of south Fremont, commutes to the Tri-Valley for all "Something Rotten!" production-related events.
This being her first show with Tri-Valley Rep, McDowell said the travel time is worth it to be able to perform with the company.
"The whole cast immediately made me feel welcome and part of their family," she said. McDowell joins the cast as a haggard woman, an astrologer and acts in the ensemble as well.
Both seasoned and incoming performers express the same gratitude toward the theater troupe.
Meghan Hornbacker, choreographer for the show, has been doing shows with Tri-Valley Rep for 15 years. She will also be part of the dance ensemble.
"I love being a part of Tri-Valley Rep because it is such a warm and welcoming community of people who are very professional with how they approach making theater," Hornbacker said. "The talent that we get coming through the company is spectacular."
Like most of the cast and production, she expresses joy and eagerness for audiences to watch.
"It's a hilarious tribute to musical theater and Shakespearean plays, and is just pure fun," Hornbacker said. "There's a lot of witty and ridiculous humor, show-stopping dance numbers, and a feel good story about two brothers. We have amazing talent onstage, and are so excited to share this show with the Tri-Valley community."
Guests are able to attend afternoon or evening performances, with Saturday evening shows Jan. 14, 21 and 28 at 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday afternoon performances Jan. 15, 22, 28 and 29 at 2 p.m. Tickets for the upcoming shows are still available and can be found at livermorearts.org.
As for his final words before "Something Rotten!" takes to the stage, Olkowski said, "It's been a joy working with this group of people. We have amazing leads and featured actors, but our ensemble is incredible."