photo by Jeremy Daniel
The ten time Tony-nominated Something Rotten! will make its Philadelphia debut on February 27th at the Kimmel Center’s Academy of Music. Set in the late 1500s, this hilarious musical tells the story of Nick and Nigel Bottom, a pair of brothers who are desperate to write a hit play.
Philadelphia actress Maggie Lakis, who plays the role of Bea, tells us that you don’t even have to be a musical theater or Shakespeare aficionado to come see the show. We recently spoke to her about Something Rotten!, her role alongside real life husband Rob McClure (Tony-nominated for his lead role in Chaplin), their incredibly sweet Philadelphia engagement, and her favorite spots in the city- including South Philly where she currently resides.
Q: You’re living in South Philly now, but what part of Philly did you live in while growing up?
A: My father was from Philly. He went to BOK High School and attended Philadelphia College of Art (now University of the Arts). My parents actually met at Dirty Frank’s on 13th and Pine on a blind date! I was born in Pennsylvania Hospital, but my family moved around a bit. I lived in several different places throughout South Jersey and then went to high school in Lancaster. I moved back to Philly to go to Temple University for theater and that was it for me. There is just a feeling for me when I come back to Philly. It just feels like home.
Q: You and your real life husband, Rob McClure, are both leads in Something Rotten! and your characters are married. Any similarities between your on-stage marriage and your real one?
A: Ha! Rob jokes that [his character] Nick is closer to him than he’d like to admit. In Something Rotten, Nick is going through a tough time, but he’s proud. [My character] Bea can sense that and wants him to know that she’s there for him and that not only is she able to help, she really wants to help. She wants to be a true partner. In any relationship there is a push and pull. Both are trying to find a balance of roles and responsibilities. So I think many couples, including us, can relate to that.
Q: Your engagement took place here in Philadelphia when you were both touring in Avenue Q. How did he propose?
A: It was on stage at The Forrest Theater, but it was after a performance on the Avenue Q tour back in 2008. The theater had emptied out with the exception of a few crew members. As a kid, I was obsessed with E.T. I had my favorite E.T. doll that went with me everywhere. I left trails of Reese’s Pieces, hoping E.T. would find me. So Rob left a trail of Reese’s Pieces to the empty stage where my childhood E.T. doll was holding the ring box. Our sound man hit the cue for the John William’s E.T. theme. Honestly it was a bit of a blur because I was so overwhelmed. Apparently I screamed, but I don’t remember that. But I do remember saying yes, and we immediately headed to a surprise engagement party where the cast, family and friends were waiting.
Q: What you love most about Bea in Something Rotten!?
A: She’s a great character who gets a great song. Then the rest of the show is all fun character work. In the spirit of Shakespearean heroines, she dons a few male disguises throughout the show, so I get to play Bea playing other characters, which is a blast.
Q: What’s your favorite song from the musical? Why?
A: I think “A Musical” is a magical number. It has everything a musical theater audience could want. Beautiful and talented performers dancing in gorgeous (Tony nominated) costumes in a big fat unabashed production number. Sometimes it gets a standing ovation mid show.
Q: What were some of your favorite Philly spots growing up? And what are some of your favorite spots now?
A: I remember watching the Mummers Parade with my family at Broad and Pine. That was our spot. Some of my favorites don’t exist anymore. I remember the Savoy Diner on Locust Street and Little Pete’s on Chancellor. My dad would would take us to South Street which was so different when I was a little kid. There were a lot of punk rockers with mohawks. Now I love the Spruce Street Harbor Park, the Magic Gardens, and the path along the Schuylkill that now extends to South Street. And God, there’s so much good food! We love Federal Donuts and Zahav, and all of the restaurants in the East Passyunk area. And, of course, 9th Street!
Q: You’ve performed locally at Bucks County Playhouse, Wilma Theatre, and Arden Theatre in the past. What have been some of your favorite local roles?
A: I played Audrey in 11th Hour and Theatre Horizon’s co-production of Little Shop of Horror. That was a dream role in a cool and original production. Sylvia in Sylvia at Delaware Theatre Co. was so much fun. I’ve worked at the Arden so many times, it’s like a second home, but some standouts there were playing Betsy/Lindsey in Clybourne Park and Frieda/Elaine in Sunday in the Park with George.
Q: Something Rotten! plays Philly for just a few days before moving on to the next tour stop. What do you want Philadelphia residents to know about the show and why should they make time to check it out?
A: First, I want them to know that they can just sit back, relax, and just laugh. They can turn off their phones and unplug from the news and just laugh. And you don’t have to be a musical theater or Shakespeare scholar in order to enjoy yourself. We celebrate both while also lovingly making fun of them. Second, it’s a brand new show. This is not a revival, or an adaptation of a movie or a play. This is a brand new story, but one that supplies a lot nods to some classics.
Something Rotten! plays at the Academy of Music February 27th to March 4th. The cast includes veteran Broadway actor Adam Pascal (Rent, original Broadway cast) playing the role of Shakespeare. Tickets are available on the Kimmel Center’s website here.