There’s something about “Something Rotten!” that makes it irresistible. Several things, in fact, according to its director/choreographer and two stars at Quad City Music Guild.

The new production of the silly, slapstick 2015 musical opens Friday, June 10 at 1584 34th Ave., Moline, and runs this weekend and next — starting 7:30 p.m. June 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, and 2 p.m. on Sundays, June 12 and 19.

Ben Holmes, left, and Joe Lasher, as Nick and Nigel Bottom in “Something Rotten!”

“The characters are very clever and lovable,” director/choreographer Steph DeLacy said Tuesday at the Prospect Park theater. “The music is great.”

With a book by John O’Farrell and Karey Kirkpatrick and music and lyrics by Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick, “Something Rotten!” is set in 1595. The story follows the Bottom brothers, Nick and Nigel, who struggle to find success in the theatrical world as they compete with the wild popularity of their contemporary William Shakespeare.

“Something Rotten!” opened on Broadway in 2015, where it played for 708 performances. It was nominated for 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and won one (Christian Borle as Best Featured Actor in a Musical). It was hailed by Time Out New York as “the funniest musical comedy in at least 400 years.”

The brothers (at Music Guild played by Ben Holmes as Nick and Joe Lasher as Nigel) are desperate to write a hit play but are stuck in the shadow of the Renaissance rock star known as “The Bard.” When a local soothsayer foretells that the future of theater involves singing, dancing and acting at the same time, Nick and Nigel set out to write the world’s very first musical.

But amidst the scandalous excitement of opening night, the Bottom brothers realize that reaching the top means being true to thine own self.

Holmes is returning to Music Guild after six years – when he played The Baker in “Into the Woods.” He works as choral music director at Moline’s Wilson Middle School, and spent the last three summers studying for his master’s in music education at University of Illinois, finished in 2021.

Ben Holmes and Alex Ryser in Music Guild’s “Something Rotten!”

“I was really on the fence about doing anything this summer, ‘cause it’s been a while,” Holmes said, noting he’s good friends with Alex Ryser, who plays Nostradamus in the show. “We’ve never been on stage together and we both said we’d audition together.”

He and Ryser had never been in a Guild show before. Holmes co-starred in Guild’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” in 2012 with Adam Lounsberry. In the new show, Nick absolutely despises the rock-star famous Bard, played here by Andy Sederquist.

“He secretly wants to be Shakespeare and will do anything to become as popular as Shakespeare,” Holmes said of the older brother. “Nick is always taking care of Nigel. Nigel is much more sensitive, more the poet.”

Lasher, a St. Ambrose theater major (to graduate in December 2022), plays Nigel.

“Nigel is very anxious, cautious and a naïve person, for sure,” he said. Like the sibling authors of “Something Rotten!,” the Bottoms collaborate to come out on top.

“We’re not the most well-oiled machine in the world; we have our meltdowns,” Lasher said.

Hating and loving Shakespeare

One of the first songs in the show, a bitter Holmes sings “I Hate Shakespeare.”

“He used to be in our group in the show. I can’t stand him,” he said. “He’s annoying. Every time I’m near him, it becomes confrontational immediately.”

Joe Lasher, left, and Ben Holmes in “Something Rotten!”

The show refers to Shakespeare (1564-1616) being a bad actor.

“I love Shakespeare,” Lasher said of Nigel, who wants to be him. “I love poetry, since he’s so good at it. I’m a fanboy for sure.”

“I want his fame; he wants his playwriting abilities,” Holmes said.

In the story, the brothers work on writing a musical, called “Omelette,” and they employ a soothsayer, who’s a nephew of Nostradamus.

“He’s not quite as skilled,” Holmes said of not being able to truly predict the future. Lasher added: “So close, yet so far away.”

DeVonte Westley plays the Minstrel in the new production.

The show is rated PG-13, so it’s not for young kids.

“There’s some language, not a ton,” DeLacy said. “There’s some innuendo, in the same way that ‘Shrek’ has a lot of jokes for adults that kids don’t get. This is probably similar, but much more adult.”

“It’s probably one of the best written comedies in modern musical theater in the past 10 years,” Holmes said. “To be a completely original show, it is very well-done. It makes very smart references to musicals throughout the catalog of musicals.”

It’s a very slapstick and satirical style, he noted. “There’s no seriousness to it.”

“It definitely rewards previous knowledge of musicals,” Lasher said.

No prior Bard familiarity needed

The show doesn’t require any knowledge of Shakespeare to enjoy it, or even be in it, Holmes said. “I’m so un-versed in Shakespeare.”

For those familiar with him and his works, there are many satisfying references and good-natured digs, DeLacy said.

Steph DeLacy, left, and Lauren Van Speybroeck, who plays Nick’s wife in the new show.

In the show, the pompous Shakespeare sings “It’s Hard to be the Bard.”

“Because he’s so famous, he constantly has to crank out these hits,” DeLacy said. “It’s a lot of hard work and there are all these expectations, but it’s also, the song doesn’t take itself too seriously. He’s very clearly self-aware.”

This is her first time directing a Guild show, and just the second time a Guilder has directed and choreographed the same show, after Christina Myatt did it with “42nd Street” in 2019. That summer, DeLacy choreographed “Beauty and the Beast” at the Prospect Park theater.

Of “Something Rotten!,” she said: “I think the way the show is set up, it makes sense to have the same person do both. That’s how it was done on Broadway.”

“Everything with this show, everything runs into each other – it’s not segmented out,” DeLacy said of dialogue and dance numbers. “For this one, the music goes right into the action, and comes right out of the action. It just seems to make sense to have someone leading all of that.”

Joe Lasher and Callen Sederquist in “Something Rotten!”

“The show wouldn’t flow as well with two different people,” Holmes said. It is a very dance-heavy show, with 26 cast members, DeLacy said.

Actors include Lauren Van Speybroeck as Bea, Jake Walker as Brother Jeremiah, Callen Sederquist as Portia, Andy Koski as Lord Clapham/Master of the Justice, Rick Davis as Shylock, and DeVonte Westley as Minstrel.

Lots of dance, directing experience

DeLacy previously choreographed “West Side Story” (2017) and “Shrek” (2018) at Music Guild. She’s also a longtime director/choreographer at many QC high schools, including at Davenport North for 10 years.

Lasher (a 2018 Central alum) has never done a Guild show, but this is his third musical in 2022 – after “The Lightning Thief” at Spotlight and “Little Women” at St. Ambrose.

Lauren Van Speybroeck and Ben Holmes play husband and wife in the show.

“It’s been fun; I’ve met a lot of new people,” he said of Guild, adding he’s finally getting to act with performers he’s admired.

“Music Guild feels like coming home,” DeLacy said. “I get to do a show with my best friends. It’s been really wonderful.”

They had auditions in February, but she actually had COVID then, and she watched auditions through FaceTime, and came back in person for callbacks.

“I was very involved in the process,” DeLacy said. “I like being in control over things, so not being there was very hard. By the time callbacks rolled around, I was in the clear.”

The cast is nearly half comprised of people new to Guild or coming back after a long time away, she said. Same thing with the staff, which includes John Whitson as music director (who played Tony in “West Side Story”). He also music directed “Shrek,” and DeLacy has worked with him at Davenport North.

She’s worked with up to nine high schools during one school year, but has cut that down significantly.

Some of DeLacy’s favorites at North were “In the Heights,” “Les Miserables” and this spring’s “Anything Goes.”

Holmes has music directed shows at Wilson and is also accompanist for Augustana College Campus Ministries and conducts the Bell Choir there.

Lauren Van Speybroeck plays an outspoken feminist in the 16th-century story.

In “Something Rotten!,” Guild veteran Lauren Van Speybroeck plays Nick’s wife, Bea, a very empowered, feminist woman, who argues for equal rights. Her famous song in the show is about her being a “Right Hand Man.”

Tickets are $16 for adults and $11 for kids 12 and under, available by calling the box office at 309-762-6610 or by visiting the QCMG website.