Matthew Janisse likes Nick Bottom so much that he wants to keep playing the would-be 16th-century playwright after the national touring company of “Something Rotten” ends its run next month.
“This is the last year of this production, but it’s going out regionally, all over the place,” Janisse said. “I’m hoping to find a place where I can keep playing this character. This show is so intoxicating to do. I’ve been in the show for seven months and it’s still not boring. There’s so much to learn and grow from.”
Janisse will definitely be playing Nick Bottom this weekend, when “Something Rotten” stops at the Lied Center for Performing Arts for a Friday night and two Saturday shows.
Nick Bottom and his brother Nigel run a struggling theatrical troupe which is attempting to mount a show that can compete with the wildly popular William Shakespeare -- “They’re trying to get a hit show under the shadow of Shakespeare, who’s a rock star then. He’s less ‘Romeo & Juliet’ and more Billy Idol,” Janisse said.
When a soothsayer named Nostradamus -- not that Nostradamus -- foretells that the future of theater involves singing, dancing and acting at the same time, the brothers set out to write the world’s first musical.
That musical’s name is a takeoff on Shakespeare, as are many of the musicals jokes, and there are dozens of laugh-inducing references to other musicals scattered through the production.
“The show is a lot of fun not just doing the jokes or the songs,” Janisse said. “It’s fun because it really works. It gets works with the writing and the timing, not only with the lines of jokes, but the time when the play gets real. It times out perfectly, laughs with character.”
So what is your favorite song/most fun thing to do in the show?”
“For me, I love doing my first song -- ‘God, I Hate Shakespeare,’” Janisse said. “It gives me a lot of things to do in the song and acting. That’s why I want to be an actor. But there are plenty of other songs that I like as well.”
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Even more fun, however, is figuring out how to play Bottom, and the entire production for the ever changing audiences the company entertains on its a-new-week-a-new-city tour.
“Because it’s a comedy, the last character is the audience,” Janisse said. “Because we move a lot, I’m always, the show is always, finding its way with that character. Finding what makes an audience laugh harder is a really fantastic thing to do in a show.
“You try a couple things that you do, exaggerate them within reason and see how people react. You do that and after awhile, you can push the buttons you feel going on out there.”
That exploration, said Janisse, a veteran of national tours of “Cabaret” and “Mamma Mia!,” also can reveal the way to play a character that will be most satisfying to a particular audience.
“Some audiences like a broad sense of acting, musical theater,” he said. “Some want you to be 100 percent honest, more real. You can make those adjustments, too.”
In either case, Janisse said, “Something Rotten” never fails to entertain audiences and the performers, who he said, continue to have to stifle a laugh here and there even though they’ve been doing the show for more than a year.
“Something Rotten” will be on the road for three more weeks in the United States following its engagement in Lincoln, but it will actually be hitting 12 more cities in that time, and then will head to Korea for about a month there.
And Janisse hopes his time in the show will continue considerably longer.
“I love this show and have done it enough that I hope I can get a regional production somewhere,” he said. “I want to keep doing it for awhile.”