Everyone loves a Broadway musical, right? Well, not everyone and for those folks who can’t understand why the characters on stage will stop speaking and break into song for no reason then Something Rotten! is just the show for you! No, really!
Something Rotten! tells the story of the Bottom brothers, Nick (Rob McClure) and Nigel (Josh Grisetti), struggling playwrights in 1595 England. Struggling because everyone is just gaga over William Shakespeare (Adam Pascal), who was actually part of the brothers’ theatre company but was too overbearing (and a terrible actor) so he was dismissed with the advice to take up writing. With his popularity, Nick needs to find something new and fresh to bring in audiences and steal Will’s thunder, and with the help of soothsayer Thomas Nostradamus (Blake Hammond) he learns what Shakespeare’s most renowned and enduring work will be … except some of the facts get a little mixed up in the soothsayer’s head, something about eggs, a danish, a dead father and a ghost. But there’s more. The way to really bring people to the theatre is by creating a musical. Confused as to why characters would suddenly break into song in the middle of their dialog, Nick has his own vision of a musical, complete with dancing too, and convinces Nigel to write “Omelette … The Musical”.
Meanwhile Nigel idolizes Shakespeare and just wants to be like him, while Will is having an awful time coming up with his next big hit. But he’s heard rumblings of something new and wonderful coming from the Bottom brothers and he sets out to steal their ideas disguised as an actor by the name of Toby (the name will make sense as a punchline later in the show). But when Toby discovers this incomprehensible production about eggs he’s not so sure that it will be a success, and discovers Nigel is writing his own superior play that will sound very familiar to audiences today. Add in to the plot a hilariously fey Puritan reverend who sees nothing but sin in the theatre, his daughter who is in love with Nigel and his words, and a Nick’s wife who thinks women in the 90s have the right to work (and by 1600 will be equal with men), and filter it through every popular Broadway musical from the past 70 years or so, and the result is one of the funniest, most clever, wittiest musical to come along in quite some time.
There is so much going on in Something Rotten! that it’s really difficult to describe with Broadway jokes, Shakespeare references and double entendres flying fast and furious. Musical fans will laugh out loud at references to The Sound of Music, Cats, Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, A Chorus Line, Chicago and many, many more. Even The Will Rogers Follies is checked! The book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell lovingly pokes fun at the concept of a musical, but with music and lyrics by Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick, pulls out all the stops of a big Broadway musical.
The issue of what exactly is a musical is addressed in the first act number “A Musical” which begins with Nostradamus explaining it in song, and dance, as Nick tries to picture it. The number which starts out in a dark alleyway turns into a stereotypical Broadway number with a huge chorus line of singers and dancers and riffs on many, many, many well-known musicals. It is a huge number smack dab in the middle of the act and it is a showstopper, literally. Our audience cheered loudly for more than a minute, and the cast were visibly taking in all the energy from the crowd. You’d think the show would have nowhere to go after that, but wait until Act II.
Act II has another showstopper in “Make an Omelette”, a production number from Nick’s show featuring a king and queen and a chorus line of dancers in egg costumes tap dancing their yolks out. You have to wonder exactly what the cast is thinking while they’re doing a huge production number about making omelettes, but they just go for and the result is almost the same reception as for “A Musical” in Act I. Director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw has put something really complicated, entertaining and very special on stage with these two numbers, and really the entire show as well. The 11-member orchestra lead by conductor Brian P. Kennedy is also stupendous. There are so many moving parts, so many gags, lighting, costume and set changes, and it all runs extremely smoothly.
The main cast — McClure, Pascal, Grisetti, Hammond, Maggie Lakis (Bea), Autumn Hurlbert (Portia), Scott Cote (Brother Jeremiah) and Jeff Brooks (Shylock) — are all spectacular. Each and every one has a magnificent voice and plays their characters to perfection. And while the leads are all terrific, I have to give shout outs to Hammond, Cote and Brooks who turn in marvelously funny performances that would fit perfectly in a classic Mel Brooks movie (in fact, a lot of the show brings up memories of Brooks’ History of the World Part I). Pascal, known to theatre-goers as an original cast member of Rent, is also terrific as the self-centered, rock-n-roll star Shakespeare. Everyone works their asses of in this show no matter the part, big or small, and the payoff for the audience is the most entertaining, funniest show to come along in quiet some time (and it has some really catchy tunes too). I can honestly say I have not laughed this hard watching a show in quite some time.
If you’re looking for a night of pure entertainment, then catch Something Rotten! in a city near you.
Something Rotten! is currently at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre through Sunday, April 23. Future stops include Cleveland, Austin, Houston, Dallas, Nashville, Chicago, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Los Angeles, Hartford, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Memphis, Atlanta, Charlotte, Providence and more! You can find the tour dates on the show’s website, or check our Ticketmaster link for ticket availability in your city. Any purchase through our link helps support Hotchka.com.
Something Rotten! runs about 2 hours and 20 minutes with one intermission.
You can find the tour dates on the show’s website, or check our Ticketmaster link below for ticket availability in your city.