Broadway’s ‘Something Rotten!’ is on its way to Penn State, with a recent grad in a leading role

Richard Spitaletta and Matthew Janisse star in the national touring production of “Something Rotten!”
Richard Spitaletta and Matthew Janisse star in the national touring production of “Something Rotten!” Photo provided

For one night only, the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State will present the Broadway hit, “Something Rotten!” on Nov. 7. The show features Penn State 2016 graduate Richard Spitaletta in one of the lead roles.

Spitaleta plays Nigel Bottom, half of a writing brothers duo competing with William Shakespeare for theatrical fame and fortune.

It’s a competitive world that Spitaletta knows well.

“I fortunately had gone to a high school with a really strong theater program, so I’d already decided I wanted to pursue a BFA in musical theater when I went to college,” he said. “Penn State University was always high on my list, because I wanted to go somewhere that had an intensive conservatory but that also felt like a big state school far away from the city. ... Penn State was literally perfect.”

However, Spitaletta’s first attempts were met with disappointment. He said that each year, 500–600 students audition for the university’s musical theater program and only 25–30 are accepted. Spitaletta was waitlisted following his audition and disappointedly set his sights on another school. Resolved to make the most of his decision, he was surprised by the news that a spot had opened up and he was invited to attend the program. He said yes with no hesitation.

“Penn State was awesome,” he said. “It was pretty much everything I was looking for in a college experience. It’s really no joke. It really prepared me in so many ways for the professional landscape.”

In his senior year at Penn State, he performed in the department’s senior showcase in New York City. An agent saw his performance, contacted him and he’s still with the same agent today, who, in fact, arranged his audition for his current role in “Something Rotten!”.

Spitaletta said he’s enjoyed getting to know the character of Nigel.

“There’s Nick, who’s kind of the director of the entire operation and then there’s Nigel, who I play, who’s really just a writer and he’s very much Nick’s shadow. He follows him around, looks to him, he’s not very confident in his ideas even though he’s a really talented writer. He’s not very confident in the way he speaks, but he’s the talent and driving force behind the duo; he’s just not the frontman for their operation,” Spitaletta said.

In the production, the two brothers attempt to thwart Shakespeare’s growing fame by anticipating the next big thing in the theater world and beating Shakespeare to the punch. Comedic shenanigans ensue.

Summing it up, Spitaletta said, “The show is really a love letter to musical theater while also lovingly poking fun at it.” However, he said there’s no need for audience members to be well-versed in musical theater or Shakespeare in order to get all the jokes.

“It has something for everyone. You don’t have to understand the references to musical theater or Shakespeare to enjoy the show,” he said. “It’s honestly just funny and very lighthearted, and also very sweet.”

He promises audiences will walk away with a smile, but also, he hopes, a greater sense of self-confidence.

“Nigel’s big arc in the second act is about being true to yourself ... He and Nick have this fight and he sings the song, ‘To Thine Own Self Be True’ and that really is what the whole show boils down to. At the very end, Nick realizes, if he’d just listened to his wife, listened to his brother and just acknowledged that he was in trouble and needed help, nothing bad would’ve happened, but he really strayed from his own path,” Spitaletta said. “I think people will walk away from the show hopefully more confident in the idea that they should be true to themselves.”

If you go

What: “Something Rotten!”

When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7

Where: Eisenhower Auditorium, University Park

Info: cpa.psu.edu