Something Rotten! revives Centennial Hall musicals

Harvey Pennington ’23, playing William Shakespeare in Something Rotten, commands the stage on March 13, 2022- Jeffrey Yang ’22

On March 12, 2020, the final day of in-person schooling before an extended hiatus, students—unsure of when they would be together again—gathered in Centennial Hall to watch the dress rehearsal of Carousel.

Exactly two years later, Something Rotten! brought Haverford musicals back in the best way possible: a spectacular production fraught with comedy, excitement, color, and delight.

The show follows Nick Bottom (Sixth Former Will Rubin) and his brother Nigel (Fifth Former Julian Caesar), as they struggle to compete with the star of their time, William Shakespeare (Fifth Former Harvey Pennington).

This past weekend, Centennial was packed, and the cast and crew delivered.

Rubin said, “This show really started coming together right on our first run, which is really, really amazing to see and normally does not happen. It’s generally a mess hall in the first run. And so the night that happened and I felt this great energy, I was like, ‘this is going to be a great show.’ And I knew it then.”

Julian Ceaser ’23 and Notre Dame’s Julia Youakim during the show on March 13, 2022- Jeffrey Yang ’22

Director Mr. Darren Hengst explained his thought process behind choosing this particular show.

“I first saw the show on Broadway with a middle school theater class, and I had a friend in it,” Mr. Hengst said. “I remember we sat in the fourth-row orchestra, the curtain went up, and we laughed the entire time—start to finish. So this year, it was important for us to do comedies because we were dark last year. I wanted to uplift the group and the community, and this is the funniest show I know.”

Fifth Former Harvery Pennington, who plays Shakespeare, explained the process of preparing for the show.

“We first worked a lot with the Ensemble and tried to nail that down,” Pennington said. “We spent a lot of time on those big numbers, which was really worth it. We made sure to get all of our work done outside of school, so when we came in, it was an easy process. I’ve never seen a show come together so quickly at the level it did: on Sunday, we had a clean run, and by Wednesday it was spectacular.”

In order to reach this level, the cast and crew spent time perfecting their roles.

     “I think the one thing that’s tough about this show, especially for the lead Will Rubin, is that he has to do everything: he’s got to sing, act, and dance,” Mr. Hengst said. “Usually the leads have the songs in the scenes and the ensemble is acting, but in this one he kind of has to be a triple threat.”

     Rubin reflected on the character of Nick Bottom.

     “The character is very focused,” Rubin said. “Nick has this laser focus on being a major success, and he’ll do anything to get it, which is why he makes the decisions he ends up making in the show. That straightforwardness, those blinders that I put on over the character, it almost punches him up.”

     Rubin made specific choices with his gestures and movements to step into this role.

     “There’s physicality to it,” Rubin said. “I like using my arms a lot and making them very straight. And I point them out because I think it shows his rigidness. Everything about him is very, very pointed. And I stayed that way off stage as well. This was the first time I tried to stay in character off stage and get in that method acting mindset.”

     Pennington also studied his role as Shakespeare deeply.

     “Shakespeare in this show is based on people like Freddy Mercury, Elvis Presley, and Michael Jackson—kind of a rockstar,” Pennington said. “The way I went about it was to be 100% confident. If the actor is awkward, the audience feels awkward. In our rehearsals I would play around with different interpretations to nail the character. Shakespeare really conducts the stage; he’s belittling and manipulating, but he does it in a funny way. For me, it was about owning it.”

     Mr. Hengst described the preparations for the show as challenging but rewarding.

Will Rubin as Nick Bottom during the show on March 13, 2022- Jeffrey Yang ’22

     “The process was intense,” Mr. Hengst said. “Production numbers are scenes where the entire cast is involved, and this show had the most production numbers I’ve ever done, so there was a lot of work.”

     The work paid off.

     “Mr. Hengst told us a story about one of his friends, who has seen all of the Haverford shows for the past 30 or so years,” Pennington said. “And this friend told Mr. Hengst that of all the shows, this one in particular stands out as one of the best.”

     “It’s been great to get back in the process,” Mr. Hengst said. “And to watch students really take off in their roles and in the show and tell a story.”

Author: Mitav Nayak '22

Mitav Nayak has contributed to The Index since 2018. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief. Mitav won the fall 2019 Pennsylvania School Press Association (PSPA) Philadelphia-area Student Journalism Competition for Newspaper Sports Story Writing and was to compete for the state title in the spring of 2020 (canceled due to COVID).