If you’re an avid theater goer, you know the theater community has a language of their own. From stage directions to choreography cues, nicknames for show days and makeup rituals. Their idols include Barbra Streisand and Norbert Leo Butz and conversations frequently revolve around the merit of revivals and original vs current cast recordings. The theater world is, in fact, it’s very own world. One which we, as audience members, are invited into on a daily basis.
Something Rotten is a delightful story of how the first musical was created, and the story whips up references to just about every Broadway show worth mentioning. Set in the time of the beloved and admired Williams Shakespeare, the story follows the Bottom Brothers Nick (Brian d’Arcy James) and Nigel (John Cariani) as they try to make their own mark against The Bard, who is at the peak of his creative genius. Struggling to write a play that outshines that of The Bard’s, Nick seeks the advice of the fortune teller Nostradamus (played by the hilarious Brad Oscar) who foresees actors on stage who are dancing, singing, and acting all at once! Through his somewhat foggy fortune telling, Nostradamus misses a few details of the play, thinking it will be called Omlet and there will be a Danish pastry. (Of course meant to be Hamlet with a Danish prince.) Skeptical but still inclined to believe the somewhat aloof Nostradamus, Nick jumps into action at creating his own musical with all the bells and whistles.
Part of the fun of having even a basic familiarity with the history of Broadway shows, is that you feel like you belong to a secret club, understanding references that the outside world just doesn’t get. Line after line of references to Les Miserables, Cabaret, Phantom of the Opera, Chorus Line, and Pippin are thrown out in rapid fire, barely giving the audience a chance to breathe from the laughter. I do wonder what people seeing a show for the first time must have felt. Did they feel like the kid with braces and glasses, standing on the outside of the ‘cool kid’ circle as everyone laughed at something they didn’t get?
For as many theater references that there were, there were also countless genuinely funny moments that everyone could most certainly enjoy. The Bard (Tony Award-winning actor Christian Borle) was portrayed as a literal rock star, with swooning women and awe-stricken fans around him at all times. In his song “Hard to be The Bard” he swaggers around the stage in a ‘too cool for school’ fashion, lamenting on the struggles of being famous. Another great moment is the song “Right Hand Man” in which Nick’s wife Bea (Heidi Blickenstaff) tries to convince her husband that she can help be a provider to the family and help him in his time of need. Blickenstaff has a remarkable voice and infectious enthusiasm, jolting scenes to life every time she is on stage. The ensemble also helped to keep the exploding energy going throughout the show, especially the Minstrel (Michael James Scott) who starts the show with a bang.
Overall, everything about this show was the purest form of fun. Well-executed acting, dancing, and singing, high-energy, and well-placed comic timing. This musical is a fresh and creative production, unlike anything else on Broadway right now. If you need a good show that ‘Defies Gravity’ and brings unending laughter, then don’t wait ‘One Day More’ and get your tickets now!
- What: The Tony-nominated musical Something Rotten
- Where: St. James Theater- 246 West 44th Street
- When: Now until January 2016
- How: Something Rotten Tickets