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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Something Rotten!’s Emily Kristen Morris on touring production, strong women

Photo by Jeremy Daniel
Emily Kristen Morris takes part in a scene on the National Tour of Something Rotten.

The second national tour of “Something Rotten!” will be making its way to the Marcus Center Oct. 16 to 21. The comedy will be kicking off the Marcus Center’s 2018-2019 Broadway season, which will include “The Book of Mormon,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” “The King and I,” “Come from Away” and “Anastasia.”

“Something Rotten!” tells the fictional story, set in 1595 London, of brothers and theatrical writing duo Nick and Nigel Bottom. Overshadowed by the successes of another playwright of their time, William Shakespeare, the brothers struggle to create a hit. When a soothsayer reveals to Nick that the next popular trend in theater will be the musical, Nick, despite initially thinking the concept sounds ridiculous, works on putting on the world’s first ever musical.

Actress Emily Kristen Morris plays Bea, the wife of Nick. Spirited and independent, Bea seeks to be Nick’s equal. When her husband’s struggling theater troupe brings him financial trouble, Bea goes out to get day jobs by dressing as a man. Her song “Right Hand Man,” Morris said, is one of the most fun songs in the show.

“Something Rotten!” found success after its 2015 debut on Broadway. A national tour ran from January 2017 to May 2018. The second national U.S. tour opened in September and is now traveling to cities across the country that were not visited by the first national tour.

“Every place we’re going to is a new crowd, and mostly people who have never seen the show. Which is really great, because it’s a comedy, and … you want, like, new faces to hear these jokes for the first time. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing the shock on people’s faces when jokes happen,” Morris said.

Much of the team from the original Broadway production of “Something Rotten!” worked on putting together the second tour as well. Included on the team were original Broadway music director Phil Reno and one of the musical’s writers, Wayne Kirkpatrick. Similar to fictional writing duo Nick and Nigel Bottom, Wayne Kirkpatrick developed the idea for “Something Rotten!” with his brother Karey Kirkpatrick.

Both had successful careers in different areas: Wayne as a Grammy-winning songwriter and Karey as a Disney animation screenwriter. The brothers originally had the concept for the musical two decades ago and the actual creation involved a process of over four years.

Despite having a busy career, including working on an upcoming Broadway adaption of the movie “Mrs. Doubtfire,” Wayne Kirkpatrick was heavily involved in rehearsals for the second tour of “Something Rotten!” The experience of having one of the show’s writers in the rehearsal room provided a unique opportunity for the actors to ask questions and get feedback on how the show was conceived to be, Morris said.

“Something Rotten!” gives Morris the chance to perform as one of the strongest characters she has ever played.

“There are definitely a lot of ingénues out there, and I’ve played a lot of those ingénues,” Morris said. “(Bea) is like one of the only characters in this show that, like, knows what she wants and knows who she is from the beginning. She is totally self-assured and … truly a modern woman.”

Although lighthearted, Morris said she feels that the musical’s themes of women’s rights carry a bit of an inadvertent political statement in light of the recent events with the #MeToo movement and the nation’s focus on female equality.

“To be totally honest, what’s happening in America right now … this character I’m playing …  she’s a true feminist and she talks about women’s rights, and it’s supposed to be sort of a joke, like ‘Oh, look at her, this is not even the 1600s and she’s … got a better head on her shoulders than a lot of politicians do now,’” Morris said. “And it’s funny, but it’s actually kind of painful right now.”

Morris recited one of Bea’s lines in the show: “This is the ’90s! We’ve got a woman on the throne and by the year 1600, women will be completely equal to men.” There is a sort of painful humor in the irony that over 400 years later, the world still deals with inequalities between genders, Morris said.

And while “Something Rotten!” touches lightly on current issues, it is also packed with extensive jokes and parodies. The show even pokes fun at other musicals.

“I’ve never done a comedy like this. It’s truly one of the funniest things I’ve ever done,” Morris said.

The tour launched Sept. 19, making Milwaukee one of the first cities with the chance to see this production. After months of traveling across the United States, the second national tour will take an international trip to put on the production in Seoul, South Korea.

Student rush tickets are available for all performances at the Marcus Center. With Student ID two hours before curtain, tickets are $25, cash only.

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