–By Jen Cunningham
First off, let me get this out of the way: Something Rotten! is a New (and Most Likely Accurate) Take on Shakespeare.
The Broadway musical that opened at The Fabulous Fox Theatre on Tuesday is set in an Elizabethan England at the peak of the Renaissance, two playwrights, the Bottom brothers (enormous amount of word-play) set out to find the next BIG thing. Cast into the shadows by an egotistical, plagiaristic brat, also known as William Shakespeare (played by Adam Pascal). Nick Bottom (played by Rob McClure) is put in a pinch by his patron to find great idea or he would withdraw his funds. The younger brother and better writer Nigel Bottom (played by Josh Grisetti) was just not cut out to write under that kind of pressure.
Feeling as if he was in a vice, Nick borrows money from the family money box and travels to spectral part of England to see a soothsayer, Nostradamus (played by Blake Hammond)…No not the Nostradamus, his nephew, Thomas Nostradamus. This is where someone pushes the plunger and blows the minds of every musical theatre geek that ever was.
Nostradamus introduces the concept of “A Musical”. Explaining how actors can be building a character, or thickening a plot and suddenly break into song. While some musicals don’t have any dialog at all they’re sang all the way through. A weary and seemingly frustrated Nick Bottom responds with “that sounds miserable” only to be met with comedic retort of “I believe it’s called ‘Miser-ahh-bluh’”
This colorful over-the-top number touches on everything from Les Miserables, Rent, Cats, Annie, to the Seussical, South Pacific, Chicago, and A Chorus Line. Those are just the references I can remember off the top of my head.
All the while Shakespeare carries on much like a combination of Freddy Mercury and Kanye West. Much more concerned about being famous than actually writing. Often be clothed in costumes resembling an Elizabethan David Bowie, our superstar rode the back of Nigel Bottom all the way to the very end.
This production is a must see for anyone regardless of your theatre experience. The colorful pastiche numbers, full of charm and pizzazz, can wow any theatre goer. I will say that had I went into this production completely blind, I would have known it was Casey Nicholaw based on ‘A Musical’, alone. Tony Award winner Casey Nicholaw is also the director and choreographer of Aladdin, another Broadway smash, where your heart is captured by a very robust semi-clairvoyant (for lack of better words) character.
The energy alone is worth it.
Tickets for Something Rotten! at the Fabulous Fox run February 7-19. Show times are Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m., Saturday afternoons at 2 p.m. and Sunday afternoons at 1 p.m. There will also be an evening performance on Sunday, February 12 at 6:30 p.m. and a matinee performance on Thursday, February 16 at 1 p.m.