By Nora Dominick ‘17/ Emertainment Monthly Assistant Stage Editor
If anyone in New York City walks down 44th street and passes the esteemed St. James Theatre, they will hear sidesplitting laughter emanating from the rafters. Something Rotten! has taken the Broadway theatre community by storm with this hilarious, inventive and downright original new musical.
Something Rotten! tells the story of Nick and Nigel Bottom, two brothers who are absolutely desperate to write a hit play in the 1590s, their only problem? Shakespeare. That’s right; The Bard himself is in the midst of creating his best work. With Romeo and Juliet being the talk of the town, Nick is desperate to figure out Shakespeare’s next move, especially with his looming debt hanging over his head and a baby on the way. When a local soothsayer foretells that the future of theater involves singing, dancing and acting at the same time, Nick and Nigel set out to write the first ever musical!
With music and lyrics by Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick and a book by John O’Farrell, Something Rotten! puts an inventive spin on a well-known figure, Shakespeare. The Kirkpatrick’s create some of the most creative and innovative musical numbers to date. Not many shows can boast that they receive a standing ovation in the middle of Act one, but Something Rotten! can. Their amazing lyrics have earned them a 2015 Tony Award nomination for Outstanding Score (Music and/or Lyrics) and they have a very likely chance at snagging the award. The musical numbers, “A Musical” and “Something Rotten!” are filled to the brim with witty lyrics and musical theatre references that earn rousing applause, high-pitched laughter and a standing ovation. There is no doubt about it, Broadway hasn’t seen this clever of lyrics in a long, long time.
Not only are the music and lyrics in Something Rotten! something to swoon over, but the unbeatable Broadway-star power of the cast rivals that of any other Broadway show. Leading this incredible cast is Brian d’Arcy James. d’Arcy James is no stranger to the Broadway stage. He is most notable for originating the role of Shrek in Shrek: The Musical. He has made his triumphant return to Broadway as Nick Bottom. d’Arcy James commands the stage in a role that seems to be tailored made for him. He saunters, runs and tap-dances his way around the St. James stage and owns it with ease and comfort. He takes in the audiences every laugh and applause. He thrives off of it. d’Arcy James’ big number in the show is the titular number “Something Rotten!” After having paying the soothsayer to foretell what Shakespeare’s biggest hit will be, Nick is determined to steal his best ideas and create “Omelet: The Musical” A musical number riddled with musical theatre references including Phantom of the Opera, Mary Poppins, Cats and Fiddler on the Roof. d’Arcy James leaves everything he has on the stage and earns a standing ovation. It’s safe to say his 2015 Tony Award nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Musical is very well deserved.
Next up in the Something Rotten! cast is Tony Award winner Christian Borle. Mostly known for his work in Legally Blonde: The Musical, Peter and the Starcatcher and NBC’s short-lived hit Smash, Borle makes a magnificent return to the Broadway stage. Borle plays Shakespeare and while from the distance that might seem like an odd role for Borle, Something Rotten’s version of Shakespeare is from the renowned literary man we see on the back covers of famous plays. Borle has created a version of Shakespeare that resembles a rock n’ roll god. He is a rock star and does an incredible job at portraying it. In the number, “Will Power” he commands not only the ensemble on stage but also the audience. He is the ringleader of this 1590’s society and Borle loves every second of it.
If any other character were to rival the star power of d’Arcy James and Borle it would be Brad Oscar, who plays the soothsayer, Nostradamus. He is a comedic genius and owns the stage in the musical number, “A Musical.” This musical number pokes fun at other musicals throughout history as Nostradamus explains to Nick why audiences love musicals. The number rides on the musical theater references hidden throughout like Les Miserables and Annie, however it would be nothing without Oscar’s incredible comedic timing. He creates the most enjoyable and memorable moments throughout the musical and will surely walk away with the 2015 Tony Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical.
John Cariari also commands the stage as Nigel Bottom. His dorky persona steals the show especially when he finds the love of his life, Portia. Portia is played by the adorable Katie Reinders, who appears to have the voice and look of a young Kristin Chenoweth. Her song with Cariari entitled “We See the Light” is heart-warming and lighthearted and creates an awesome moment on stage for the duo. Cariari was one of the snub at this years Tony Awards, but that’s not keeping him from creating some of the most heartwarming scenes in Something Rotten! Nick’s wife Bea, played by the lovely Heidi Blickenstaff, also has moments of show-stopping success. Her number “Right Hand Man” perfectly shows women’s rights in the 1590’s. She is the main female who wants to go out and do a man’s job, and she does so while disguised. Blickenstaff does an incredible job and creates some other hilarious and iconic moments.
If any member of the cast would go unnoticed, but makes one of the biggest impressions, it would be Brooks Ashmanskas as Brother Jeremiah. He is a puritan trying to sabotage the theater but with a gay-twist. His small moments are hysterical and sometimes earn the biggest laughs. All in all the entire cast of Something Rotten! does an incredible job and brings the new musical to the impeccable height it has reached.
All in all, Something Rotten! is a musical for the ages. With a mixture of humor and heart, this musical could see a long run for years to come. The new musical is a mix between The Producers, Spamalot, Book of Mormon and The Drowsy Chaperone, which isn’t a bad thing. There are moments where audiences are doubled over laughing and that is thanks to the incredible Tony Award worthy cast and lyrics by the Kirkpatrick brothers.