William Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. So what happens if you are Shakespeare’s contemporary and competition?
Something Rotten! tells the story of Nick and Nigel Bottom, two playwrights who are stuck in the shadow of Shakespeare, who once acted in their troupe and who by the time of this story is already a Renaissance rock star. After his opening song, “God, I Hate Shakespeare,” and under increasing pressure to support a growing family, Nick seeks the advice of a soothsayer, Thomas Nostradamus. Nostradamus tells Nick that the Next Big Thing in the theater will be a production that involves singing, dancing and acting---AT THE SAME TIME. So the Brothers Bottom set out to stage the world’s first musical.
Something Rotten! becomes a musical theater kid’s dream with nods to nearly every great American musical: Cats, Hair, Annie, Chicago, The Phantom of the Opera, The Lion King, Les Miserables, The Sound of Music, Little Shop of Horrors, Gypsy, Avenue Q, Mary Poppins, Fiddler on the Roof, The Man of La Mancha, The King & I, West Side Story, Guys & Dolls, Cabaret, A Chorus Line and Dreamgirls, to name a few.
But the show goes fully and gloriously over the top, when Nick consults Nostradamus a second time in order to discover ---and steal--- what will eventually become Shakespeare’s greatest play idea. Nostradamus tells Nick that the idea is “OMELET! Or Ham. Or something involving a Danish.” The world’s first musical takes on a breakfast theme. Hilarity and tap-dancing egg chorus lines ensue.
Fortunately, Nick’s shy but incredibly talented brother, Nigel (played by Josh Grisetti) is the wordsmith in the family. Buoyed by the adoration and encouragement of his beloved Portia, (played by Kristin-Chenoweth doppelganger, Autumn Hurlbert), he determines to remain true to his own self and writes a brilliant play that has little to do with omelets and ends up sounding an awful lot like Hamlet.
Nick Bottom is played by Rob McClure, who also played the role on Broadway. Nick’s wife, Bea is Nick’s equal and partner and is played by McClure’s real-life wife, Maggie Lakis. William Shakespeare is played as a Renaissance Mick Jagger by Adam Pascal, best known for originating the role of Roger in Rent.
In 2015, Something Rotten! was nominated for ten Tony awards, including Best Musical. It lost to Fun Home, but famously poked fun at itself by creating a social media image on its Facebook page with a list of many legendary musicals to have lost Best Musical with the comment, “We like the company we keep.”
Something Rotten! is a fun show filled with inside theater winks, beautiful dance numbers, great voices, bawdy jokes, misunderstandings that lead to shenanigans and naturally, a happy ending. Everything you could want from a Broadway musical.
Now through July 23, 2017 at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph.