The musical “Something Rotten” springs to life with skills of Thetford residents

“Something Rotten” opens on Friday, April 5th, at the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction.

The musical “Something Rotten” springs to life with skills of Thetford residents
Publicity material courtesy of We the People Theater, showing a scene from the Tony Award-nominated production (2017) of “Something Rotten” 

It is less than a month before the curtain goes up on “Something Rotten,” a production of We the People Theater at the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction. Perry Allison of Thetford Hill and Enrique Polletta of Gove Hill are among five Theftord residents on the production team whose skills and talents contribute to making this live theater possible.

Perry Allison is the Producing Artistic Director who, with Toni Egger, manages the departments in charge of the show’s practical aspects, including the set designer, set builder, lighting technicians, props manager, wardrobe director, music director, choreographer, and more. She also secures the rights from the publisher to use the script and musical score for the drama. And it’s her job to line up financial backing for the production. Fortunately she has a background in marketing, something important when it comes to ticket sales.

Perry has been passionate about theater all her life, from school plays to community theater to a stint as Managing Director at Northern Stage to her present involvement with We the People Theater.  The impetus behind We the People Theater was to offer productions that would provoke thought and discussion. They started in 2017 with the musical “1776,” a dramatization of events spearheaded by John Adams that led up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Perry remembers it was quite a challenge to find 24 men to fill all the roles. The play was a big success, and they went on to perform “Working,”  based on Studs Terkel's best-selling book of interviews with American workers. In 2020 their third production, “Man of La Mancha,” was shut down by the pandemic days before it was due to open. The company regrouped in 2022 with the review show “All Together Now.”

Perry feels the company is really coming back together with “Something Rotten.” Not only have the original core group of actors re-engaged, but a new generation of younger actors has stepped up. While this musical comedy is a departure from earlier plays, she feels that audiences right now want something upbeat. This lighthearted fiction is set in Renaissance England and tells of two brothers who aspire to out-compete Shakespeare. They are advised by a soothsayer that the future of theater is in musicals, which of course did not exist. There’s also a puritan father whose daughter falls for one of the brothers — a poet — pitting loyalties to strict values against art and imagination. 

Graphic courtesy of We the People Theater

Work on the production started over a year ago in spring of 2023, with the process of selecting the play. Auditions were held before the winter holidays, and rehearsals began in earnest in January. Perry expressed thanks to Shaker Bridge Theater, now based at the Briggs Opera House, for shifting their upcoming production to accommodate “Something Rotten” and to Revels North in Lebanon and the Richmond School in Hanover for providing rehearsal space. 

A well-executed stage set allows the atmosphere of a play and its historic context to spring to life. This is where Enrique Polletta’s skills as an artist and carpenter come to the fore. It’s an exciting new direction, since it is the first stage set he has built, though he is no stranger to the theater world. His wife, Arlynn, is a theater director and is also in this production. Enrique has enjoyed observing the inner workings of this theater company and how the many parts make a whole. The stage set embodies the vision of the Director, Richard Waterhouse, and the Set Designer, Alex Taylor, who has worked on Broadway and at venues around the world. After much tweaking they arrived at a minimalistic design that evokes the Tudor age without being fantastically detailed. 

It is fortuitous that Enrique has a barn that can accommodate constructing the set. Here he will fabricate panels, some a little over 10 ft tall, that will connect to make walls. The set must be easy to take apart, transport and re-assemble, something that Technical Director Chris LaMontagne is experienced in designing. The panels will fit into a box truck with a 12 ft-long cargo space. In addition to construction, Enrique will paint the panels to evoke the stucco of Tudor buildings and also the flooring to simulate cobblestones. He is looking forward to sharing photos as the construction progresses.

Other Thetford residents on the production team are expert seamstress Beth McGee, resident costume designer, Beth Polletta who acts in the ensemble, and Sherry Merrick, marketing coordinator.

While all members of the team receive a stipend, the hours they put in exceed this ten-fold. What really motivates them is the experience of working with other creative people who are passionate about the project. A theater production fosters a very collaborative environment; Perry likens it to a “team sport” where people rely on each other to work towards a mutual goal they can all be proud of.

“Something Rotten” opens on Friday, April 5th, at the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction. See for more information and tickets.

Subscribe to Sidenote

Sign up now to get the latest stories right in your inbox.