Nearing Its First Anniversary on Broadway, Something Rotten! Is Still Fresh

Nearing Its First Anniversary on Broadway, Something Rotten! Is Still Fresh

It has been almost a year since I first saw Something Rotten!, so I was beyond excited to see it again. And, same as before, I walked out of the theater with sore cheeks from smiling and laughing so hard. I love most musicals, but this meta musical about the invention of musicals holds an extra special place in my heart.

In the show, playwright brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom are in need of a new stage show that somehow can surpass the popularity of Will Shakespeare and his latest hit, Romeo and Juliet. Nick goes behind everyone’s back and hires a Soothsayer, Thomas Nostradamus (you know… Nostradamus’ nephew), to not only predict what the next big thing is, but to steal Shakespeare’s brilliant idea before he even has it yet. (You see, Nick hates Shakespeare with such passion that there is a whole song and reprise about it.) Meanwhile, Shakespeare-fan Nigel writes his own poetry and falls in love with a Puritan girl who also fancies the words of The Bard. The Bottom brothers have differing opinions about where their next show should go plot-wise and things start spiraling in some interesting directions. I’m not saying Nick’s The Black Plague and Omelette musicals are unappealing—I would totally see them—but they’re definitely not what Nostradamus was meaning to predict.

Since I last saw Something Rotten!, it was nominated for nine Tony Awards (including Best Musical) and won a Best Featured Actor Tony for Christian Borle. Borle’s Shakespeare is unlike any Shakespeare we’ve seen before. He preens like a peacock and walks around as if you should be thanking him for existing. And perhaps we should—thank Borle, that is. Sure, Shakespeare has given us some solid plays and poetry, but it is Borle who embodies him with such a delicious balance of “gosh, he’s a jerk” and “well, he kind of has a point,” that you don’t know whether to shake your head or go gaga over him. Because who doesn’t love a bad boy bard?

I’m still so smitten by John Cariani’s turn as the younger Bottom brother. His Nigel is just so earnest and excited about sharing poetry. (Like so excited that he finishes early.) And Nigel’s duet with Portia, “I Love the Way,” is as sweet as it is funny. Katie Reinders plays Portia in a way that puts her in the running for America’s Next Kristin Chenoweth–a petite yet commanding vocalist who exudes passion and fierce determination. And then there is the vocal powerhouse that is Heidi Blickenstaff. She plays Bea Bottom, a strong (in every sense of the word) feminist who takes charge of her household, is always ready to help Nick out (“Right Hand Man”) and siiiiiiiings.

I will never get over the overwhelming happiness that seeing Brian d’Arcy James (Nick Bottom) on stage brings me. (I’ve been a fan since middle school, but this was the first times I’ve ever seen him perform live onstage.) Nick is stubborn and kind of selfish, but is ultimately well-meaning and loves his family, so you do sincerely root for him to come up with a good idea for a show.

And what a show. Omelette’s big number, “Make an Omelette” is a huge mashup of musical cues and plot from a generous handful of musicals that modern audiences are familiar with (but are new to the 1595 crowd), combined with the plot of Hamlet as if it was told by someone on Drunk History who was also actively craving brunch.

Something Rotten! fills me up. I love musicals and in-jokes about them. I love Shakespeare and in-jokes about him and his plays. I love watching ridiculously talented people sing ridiculously catchy songs. And there’s tap dancing!

If any or all of these things tickle your fancy, too, then you should definitely get yourself to the St. James Theatre. Whether it’s your first time or 15th time seeing this show, Something Rotten! is always fresh.

Photos courtesy Joan Marcus, 2015

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