Rob McClure and Adam Pascal star in Something Rotten! at the Dr. Phillips Center.
Remember the ’90s, when theater fans lined up around the block for the latest British blockbuster? Of course, I’m talking about the 1590s, when everyone in Elizabethan England was bonkers for the Bard of Avon. Everyone, that is, except for Nick Bottom (Rob McClure), a struggling stage director who once kicked William Shakespeare (Adam Pascal) out of his troupe for being a terrible actor. Now that Romeo and Juliet
has become runaway hit, Bottom is desperate for a success of his own, if only to keep a roof over the heads of his long-suffering wife Bea (Maggie Lakis) and playwright brother Nigel (Josh Grisetti). Bottom turns to a Falstaffian soothsayer (Blake Hammond) who inspires him with a scrambled glimpse of the future of entertainment, leading to the creation of the world’s first – and possibly worst – musical.
is something increasingly rare: an entirely original show not based on a pre-existing film or intellectual property, unless you consider the Bard a name brand. I went into the Dr. Phillips Center (where it’s now running through April 29 as part of the Fairwinds Broadway series) with zero expectations, and walked out with a huge grin on my face. The witty script by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell is full of clever nods to Shakespeare’s canon, while the tuneful songs by Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick are both literate and licentious; if the thought of rhyming “genius” with “penis” makes you giggle, get thee to the theater.
Production numbers like “A Musical” and the title song pack more rapid-fire satirical stabs at Great White Way icons than any show since The Producers
, and are especially rewarding for fans of Les Miz
and Fosse who can laugh at their favorites. Most importantly, director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw brings the same madcap spark to Something Rotten
that energized his earlier award-winning work on Book of Mormon
, with exuberantly anachronistic dancing and seamless scene changes that make the evening fly by.
Several members of the cast come to this tour from the Tony-nominated New York production, and their relaxed relishing of their roles shone through on opening night. McClure invests his intemperate thespian with marvelously manic physicality, which is perfectly balanced by Grisetti’s gentle goofiness; the scenes of Nigel wooing the Puritan preacher’s daughter, Portia (Autumn Hurlbert, with the voice and charm of a young Kristin Chenoweth), are both genuinely romantic and guffaw-inducing. Shakespeare himself gets a glorified cameo, but Pascal – famed for originating roles in RENT
– comically leverages his rock-star reputation in portraying Will as whiny, vain peacock.
From costumer Gregg Barnes’s bedazzled period garb to scenic designer Scott Pask’s deceptively simple backdrops, I can’t think of a single rotten thing to say about this fresh, funny show. Even grousing groundlings who usually bring eggs to throw will be taking them back home to make omelets afterward.
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