Sometimes a new show in New York seems to come out of nowhere and ends up getting tons of Tony nominations and people attend telling you that you MUST go see it. That's what happened with the musical Something Rotten! It seems we just started to hear about this new comedy that tells the story of the first musical during Shakespearean times right before the Tony cut-off was approaching. However they have been working on this for years (as is the case with most shows before we hear about them). Friends of mine saw it in previews and said it was wonderful. Last night, seeing it with them again - I have to agree.
While the brothers Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick may be new to Broadway, they are not new to the arts. Karey has been working as a writer/director in Hollywood for years and Wayne is a Grammy winner. Add John O'Farrell to the mix (one of the UK's best comedy writers) and you have quite a team making their mark on Broadway with this show. This new comic musical is a cross between Book Of Mormon, Spamelot, and The Drowsey Chaperone which makes since since Casey Nicholaw is at the helm as director/choreographer. What a talent this man is! If you have a comedy on Broadway now - you want him involved in some way.
The musical has it all: rivalry, jealousy, betrayal (sounds like Shakespeare, right?) - but it's all done in a smart, comic book/score. Two brothers (the amazing Brian d'Arcy James and the endearing John Cariani) are constantly trying to write the next best thing in the Renaissance period of 1590, but always competing with that star Shakespeare. Christian Borle is obviously having a ball playing Shakespeare as a cross between Elvis and Frank-n-furter. I don't want to give away too much of the plot of this show as the brothers attempt to write the first musical. How do they find out about musicals…that's a clever plot point in itself with Brad Oscar giving a Tony-worthy performance as a soothsayer Nostradamus.
I had read the show is 'low-brow' and a one joke show. SOOO not true. It's low-brow meets clever and smart. You are laughing so much at the constant nods to musicals and Shakespeare plays that you miss several. It's a throwback to a kind of humor enjoyed by many while putting a fresh take on a show set so long ago. I loved it! There is a treasure-trove of Broadway funny people in this show from Heidi Blickenstaff as the dutiful wife (donning numerous disguises), to Kate Reinders as the adorable love interest, to Brooks Ashmanskas cracking us up as the prudish puritan, Peter Bartlett, Gerry Vichi….the funny list goes on and on. (Shout out to Jenny Hill who is wonderful in the ensemble and Bud Weber who I could not take my eyes off when dancing! "Cassie, don't pop your head." (Yet another hidden nod to a show that I'm not even certain Mr. Weber knows he's doing when he gives every dance move his all.)
I will admit, I am not one to always like college show humor. There, I said it. I must think I'm 'above a man in drag for a laugh' or something. But I had a ball at this show. There is a number (I'm sure we'll see on the Tony awards) called "Musical" early in the show and I said to my friend "where do they go from here? That was the 11 o'clock number!" And they just keep topping it. Casey Nicholaw has his cast singing and tapping their feet off…sometimes even dressed as eggs!
If you want a laugh-out-loud night at the theater, get thee to the St. James Theatre.